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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 27, 2022 05:58PM

The guy I work next to went and had a skin tag removed. When the doc asked about his family history he said there was lots of cancer. So the doc said be on there look out and see him right away if anything grows out of place.

To hammer his point home the doc said he had to give a man in his 30s the worst of news.

My coworker was in the waiting room with only one other person. He was a man in his 30s in for a follow-up.

They had chatting awhile waiting on the doc. It was obvious who was getting the worst of news. This ruined my coworker's appetite, sleep, and he has been brooding about it all day.

Was it ethical for the doc to divulge?

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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: September 27, 2022 06:19PM

My opinion is that the doctor did the exact right thing.

There have been, to my mind, far too many cancer deaths (of various kinds) in my family, and I have had far more than "enough" experience being the identified primary caregiver for the patient..

Less cancer deaths in the population overall would be a very good thing, and I am all in favor of learning, and then checking out, what the biological "signs" of various kinds of cancers are, and whether they might apply to you or to someone you love and care about.

It is my understanding that most cancers, if caught early, can be medically dealt with--and in many, many cases death can be put off for sometime a ways down the road.

It is better to check out a possible cancer symptom or possible cancer indicator than to be either ignorant of its possible significance, or indifferent as to whether you get it professionally evaluated or not.

Your life, your personal finances, and your family members may possibly be very positively affected if you are aware of what the possible significance may be.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/27/2022 06:22PM by Tevai.

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: September 27, 2022 06:37PM

The physician did not divulge personally identifying information, other than the patient's general age range. The man in the waiting room could have been there for some other reason.

One of my coworkers in her 20s just had a melanoma removed from her skin. She admits that she waited too long to have it checked out. Skin cancer can strike at any age. The physician was right to issue a stern warning to your coworker.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 27, 2022 07:21PM

But not, surely, to tell him that the patient in the waiting room was dying of cancer.

That's the issue. The doctor probably violated no ethical rules, but sharing information about other patients, however inadvertently, is not appropriate.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: September 27, 2022 08:26PM

Lot's Wife Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> But not, surely, to tell him that the patient in
> the waiting room was dying of cancer.
>
> That's the issue. The doctor probably violated no
> ethical rules, but sharing information about other
> patients, however inadvertently, is not
> appropriate.

I would agree that to ID a patient and then divulge information about their medical history is unethical.

I think that even if it is inadvertent it still falls into the unethical category because an MD should be careful 100% of the time.


To Elder Berry's co-worker, he sounds like a very compassionate person to feel so bad for a stranger.

I would think it is more likely than not that the man waiting his turn to see the doctor is NOT the patient the doctor was having to give bad news to. I think that any reasonably competent and ethical practitioner would not do that.

So I would reassure the co-worker that he can put aside the feelings that are causing him upset through visualizing that specific person being the recipient of bad news. In other words, to move it to a third-person kind of scenario and realize that the MD was likely speaking in general terms. That might help to diminish his strong, yet compassionate, reaction.

On another note, he can take the advice to be vigilant about knowing and checking for any signs that he needs a check up to keep on top of things and maximize his good health.

I agree with summer's comments about having at least basic knowledge and some degree of vigilance when it comes to one's health and well-being.

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Posted by: catnip ( )
Date: September 27, 2022 08:14PM

To avoid ethics complaints, we used to relate a story without divulging identifying details: i.e., "Today I talked to this guy who. . ."

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Posted by: Gordon B. Stinky ( )
Date: September 27, 2022 09:03PM

Hmmm, some thoughts...

The doctor was probably just making the point that you don’t have to be old to get skin cancer. I started having to get precancerous stuff treated in my twenties, Basel cell carcinomas in my 30s and intermittently since (fortunately nothing worse).

If the coworker was able to connect the dots after talking to the patient in the lobby, then it’s probably the patient himself who divulged enough info to do so. After all, he won’t be the doctor’s only thirty-something patient, and the coworker shouldn’t otherwise assume that he is.

Last of all, this is a friend of a friend story. We’re quibbling over details, and they may be lost in translation.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 27, 2022 10:02PM

Good point. It was enough to disturb him and talk about it a bunch at work.

The man told my coworker according to my coworker that he thought he had waited more than he should have to get it looked at but he never told him where it was and my coworker said it didn't look like his face which is where my coworker had his removed.

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