Terminal Illness

Submitted by Amber Moore

Tags: ethical principles ethical standards ethical values

Terminal Illness

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Doctors and nurses are faced everyday with the ethical dilemma of telling their patients that they have a terminal illness that they will soon die from.  How do we as healthcare professionals address this situation?

Patients and their loved ones are also faced with this ethical dilemma. Will that individual’s family tell them about the diagnosis if the patient doesn’t want to know?  What if the patient knows about their diagnosis and does not want to share that information with their loved ones?  Say the patient is happily confused and has a few weeks to live; should you tell them?   Do they have the right to know and who should tell them?   Some people feel if they tell their loved one the extent of their illness they will not live life to the fullest with the small amount of time they have left.  

On the other hand, the individual may not want to tell their loved ones they are ill because they do not want them to worry or consume their lives around their illness.  If they choose not to tell their families what is truly going on, then will their family have closure after the individual dies?

To have closure and to die without regret that individual needs to make a decision that they feel is right.  As healthcare professionals we need to support whatever decision our patient makes even if we do not agree. We also need to be prepared for the conflict that may be caused if information is withheld.


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