Doctors Reluctant to Tell Terminally Ill How Long They Have Left

According to the New York Times, a recent study indicates that doctors often knowingly provide terminally ill patients with inaccurate assessments of life expectancy.

The study, conducted by the Soros Foundation Project and Robert Wood Johnson Scholars Program, in conjunction with the National Institute of Health, found that less than 40% of doctors would offer an honest estimate of how long they expect a terminally ill patient to survive.

Though researchers did not ask doctors why they opted for such an approach, the study’s organizers speculated that doctors wanted to keep their patients’ spirits high. A doctor consulted by the New York Times suggested that doctors might also be reluctant to provide life expectancy estimates because such prognoses are "inexact" and given too much significance by patients.

In their findings, researchers contended that honesty would be a better policy, because it would give patients a clearer idea of how much time they have left to arrange finances and visit with close family members and friends.