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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.