Humane Treatment of the Terminally Ill
Should patients who are doomed to die know their fate? This used to be a troublesome question, the most baffling in the entire issue of dying. Discussions were always theoretical. No scientific or clinical evidence existed for the comparison of the benefits in telling the patient with the benefits of remaining silent. Everybody guessed. Parlor talk and religion classes abounded with moral platitudes about man’s right to know his condition or about our duty to keep the patient comfortable by silence.“Every man has the right to know so he can put his house in order!” “Happiness is an inalienable right and should not be destroyed when nothing is accomplished!” Doctors differed in theory. In practice they were nearly unanimous in not telling. Clergymen leaned toward telling, though they were easily convinced otherwise if they were asked to tell. The dying were seldom consulted, only left to suffer the results of the arguments outside their door.
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