Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Ethics: A Patient’s Right to Not Know

Ethics: A Patient’s Right to Not Know.

Excerpt

Writing in Science, the chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues notes it is increasingly common for physicians and medical researchers to discover a disease that was not the original target of a medical test or screening.

Amy Guttman Ph.D. notes these surprise clinical test results are called incidental and secondary findings. Guttman explains the surprise discovery of an unexpected illness from screening and similar tests is called an ‘incidental’ finding. Guttman adds when clinicians deliberately seek to discover a second or third disease in addition to the primary target, these results are called ‘secondary’ findings.

Guttman, who is the president of the University of Pennsylvania, writes (and we quote): ‘Improved technologies are making incidental and secondary findings increasingly common. They are becoming a growing certainty in clinical practice as well as in the distinct contexts of research and direct-to-consumer testing’ (end of quote). For example, Guttman notes an array of unexpected clinical findings may be generated by new CT scans intended to detect lung cancer in heavy smokers. The increased screening will occur because of recent recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which we discussed in last week’s podcast.

Guttman writes before CT scans or other medical tests, clinicians should alert patients about the possibility of surprise findings regardless whether screening deliberately seeks (or accidentally finds) new, unexpected illnesses.

Guttman notes while some persons will ask a physician to tell them about whatever clinical tests discover, some patients do not want to learn about incidental or secondary findings.

As a result, the Presidential Bioethics Commission recommends physicians and medical practitioners need to know a patient’s health priorities and tolerance to manage surprising results prior to clinical testing. Guttman writes (and we quote) ‘A patient who does not wish to learn about information related to the primary purpose of the test should not undergo the test. If a patient wishes to opt out of receiving incidental or secondary findings that are clinically significant and actionable, then clinicians should exercise their discretion whether to proceed with testing’ (end of quote).

Guttman notes health care providers should explain both the risks and rewards of finding unexpected illnesses that can occur from a new generation of sophisticated clinical tests, such as human genome screenings. While false positive findings are among the risks, Guttman explains the rewards include the detection of diseases and illness that could be clinically actionable.

In terms of biomedical ethics, Guttman concludes (and we quote):’ In keeping with shared decision-making, clinicians live up to their highest calling when they discuss how they will handle incidental findings with their patients’ (end of quote). While the Presidential Bioethics Commission provides more specific recommendations in their report, their overall intent is to improve patient-provider disclosure and communication as well as help patients anticipate the possibility of unexpected findings from routine testing.

The Commission’s report is available at bioethics.gov.

Meanwhile, a link to a website that explains some of the ethical issues associated with patient and provider health decision making (from Beth Israel Medical Center) is available in the ‘specific conditions’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page.

Similarly, a link to a website that explains some of the ethical issues associated with patient and provider treatment decisions (also from Beth Israel Medical Center) can be found in the ‘specific conditions’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about medical ethics as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page type ‘medical ethics’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘medical ethics (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov additionally contains a health topic page on talking with your doctor, which provides tips to enhance provider and patient communication.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

March 26, 2014 - Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: