When I was working a random overnight shift at the ER, the physician I was working for walked out of a patient’s room and said, “There are three people you never lie to in this world”. I wasn’t sure what he was getting at, so I just waited for him to continue as I watched him dispose his gloves with a look of disappointment. He continued, “Your pastor, your lawyer, and your doctor”.
It’s a lie when you don’t accurately report how much you smoke or drink, how much you eat or don’t eat, or how many sexual partners you’ve had. It’s a lie when you incorrectly take your medications and continue to smoke multiple packs a day. However, you report to your doctor that you are compliant with medications and are taking the necessary steps for smoking cessation.
Many patients are denying drug-use and other lifestyle choices, out of fear of being judged or in trouble. Moreover, many patients are either understating or over-exaggerating their symptoms. Some patients may even participate in malingering, pretending or faking their symptoms for their own personal gain – maybe to gain access to a controlled drug. There are also individuals who feel captive or are afraid to report mental illness or abusive relationships.
These lies may save you judgement temporarily; however, in the long run, lying to doctors can cause actual harm to yourself. For example, certain substances can interact with prescribed medications and treatments, information that isn’t always easily found on Google. Also, your lifestyle choices or behaviors could be causing the medical issues you’re presented with.
As a healthcare provider, the number one duty that you have is to your patient. When it comes to being a drug user or not, when someone is choking right in front of you the emergency action is the same – the Heimlich maneuver. A healthcare provider’s personal belief and thought should not affect patient care.
As it is their responsibility to treat you to the best of their ability, it is your responsibility as the patient to provide healthcare professionals with accurate information about your health. Your medical records are only as good as the information you provide, and thus, the treatment – your treatment. Look at truth-telling as a process, instead of an outcome. Get to the bottom of your health and help build trust within the patient-physician relationship.