This essay is told from the perspective of an ophthalmologist who was consulted about a patient who had blurry vision. She is told by his internist that he has cancer but the family does not want him to know it. She plays along with the deception and does not inform the patient that his vision problems are from brain metastases. By serendipity she later learns that the patient knows his diagnosis but is playing along with the deception so as not to hurt his family. She is relieved to finally talk with him openly about his disease and his prognosis.


This very readable essay addresses the issues of truth-telling and beneficence when dealing with terminal disease. It effectively promotes discussion about ways that real life physicians might deal with informing patients and handling family conflicts.

Primary Source

J. Amer. Med. Assoc., 266(18): 2550 (1991)


American Medical Association

Place Published


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