Bioethics for Breakfast: Is There Anything Patients and Families Don’t Need to Know?

bioethics-for-breakfastTom Tomlinson, PhD, and Saniya Khan, MD, presented at this morning’s Bioethics for Breakfast event, offering opposing views on the topic, “Is There Anything Patients and Families Don’t Need to Know?”

The reigning wisdom is that more information is better. If the physician has any information about the patient’s medical condition or treatment options, the patient or family should always be told. In this presentation, we will challenge this assumption. Information has consequences, which might sometimes leave the patient worse off. Using examples from critical care, we will present a variety of circumstances in which the “right to know” is in tension with the patients’ best interests, and we wonder: should the physicians keep this to themselves?

In today’s discussion, Dr. Tomlinson described the ethical tension created when information the physician might provide could make things worse for the patient or family, while Dr. Khan presented several cases which raised the question: is there information physicians should keep to themselves?

Tom Tomlinson, Ph.D.
Tom Tomlinson is Director of the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences and Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University.

Saniya Khan, M.D.
Saniya Khan holds an appointment in the Department of Osteopathic Medical Specialties, College of Osteopathic Medicine, and specializes in pulmonology and critical care.

About Bioethics for Breakfast:

In 2010, Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman invited the Center for Ethics to partner on a bioethics seminar series. The Center for Ethics and Hall Render invite guests from the health professions, religious and community organizations, political circles, and the academy to engage in lively discussions of topics spanning the worlds of bioethics, health law, business, and policy. For each event, the Center selects from a wide range of controversial issues and provides two presenters either from our own faculty or invited guests, who offer distinctive, and sometimes clashing, perspectives. Those brief presentations are followed by a moderated open discussion.