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Full Disclosure

Written by Jeremy Walker · Friday 15th March 2013

I read a BBC article today about a doctor who had filmed examinations of women for voyeuristic purposes. One quote in particular stood out:

"We had the challenge of identifying and locating a large number of women and explaining to them that their examinations had been secretly recorded by Bains for the purpose of his sexual gratification. It was horrendous. They were unaware that they were victims and this dated back over a three-year period."

At least 30 women have been contacted to be told they were victims of someone's perversion. Until they were told, they had no idea they were victims. Only upon being told will they feel disgust and violation, not to mention distrust over future consultations.

It reminded me of a discussion recently on here where a student was telling us about an experience where they saw a patient with horrific stitching and scarring after surgery. The doctor told the patient that it all looked like it was healing fine, then after the patient left, commented to the student that the stitching was some of the worst they'd ever seen.

Was the doctor lying or being compassionate? Should the police tell the perverted doctor's victims, or leave them in peaceful ignorance?

As I patient - I think I'd just rather not know, but I believe many doctors would argue that full disclosure is essential, especially in light of the Francis Report. I would be interested in medics' views, from ethical, procedural and "real-world" points of view.

Responses

Aerosus 2
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Posted over 6 years ago
Medical professionals have codes of conduct which are needed and expected to be fulfilled, while experience and style in practicing are individually dependent. Compared to a little "bad" stitching, the above case is clearly an abhorrent professional mi
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Jeremy Walker
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Site Administrator
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Posted over 6 years ago
But if I was a patient who had been filmed, what good does it do me knowing? All that happens is that I now feel violated and distrustful of doctors for every other examination. It doesn't benefit me in **any** way. Equally, if my stitching was bad (fo
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Dr Alastair Buick
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Site Administrator
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Posted over 6 years ago
These two situations are different. I would leave the 'stitching' case out of it because (from what you describe) this is subjective. You don't know the reasons behind it and in all likelihood it may not have been avoidable and was a complication of s
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Dr Alastair Buick
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Site Administrator
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Posted over 6 years ago
This doesn't really make sense to me. Clearly when bad situations occur, knowing about them can be difficult, but this is not a reason not to know about them. If something happens to you that was seriously wrong, even if you were initially unaware, yo
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Laura Falvey
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Medical Student - Kings College London
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Posted over 6 years ago
From a patient's point of view, in the particular scenario above, I would not want to know, as Jeremy states, there is no benefit. However, were I to find out later that the choice to learn this personal information had been taken away from me, without my
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Miss Luna Ibrahim
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Medical Student - Warwick
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Posted over 6 years ago
As a woman I do see both sides of this argument. I understand the ethical responsibility for disclosure but equally understand the point being made along the lines of "First, do no harm". And what is being achieved by disclosure other than potentially a l
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Dr Alastair Buick
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Site Administrator
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Posted over 6 years ago
I agree Aerosus, I like how you have put it - "Medical professionals have codes of conduct which are needed and expected to be fulfilled, while experience and style in practicing are individually dependent."
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