Should Doctors Get to Withhold Information from Patients?

Before I get into the details, just answer that question. Should doctors be protected by law for withholding information from patients that their patients might want to know?

Got your answer in your head? Here’s why:

The Arizona Senate approved a bill Tuesday to shield doctors from “wrongful birth” lawsuits, which can arise if physicians don’t tell pregnant women of prenatal problems that could lead them to decide to have an abortion. The measure now goes to the House.

Supporters of the bill will say, evidently, that no one should be held to blame if a baby is born with a disability. This, of course, is not correct in and of itself. There are many diagnosable conditions, in utero, that can sometimes be managed better if we know about them. There’s even fetal surgery these days. So even those parents who are the most anti-abortion might still want to do everything possible to improve the health of their yet-unborn child.

But go back to my original question. This bill says that it’s ok for doctors to withhold information from their patients – information that their patients may want to know – in order to get them to do what the doctors want. That seems like a bad idea to me. Are you OK with doctors lying to you about your improving cholesterol so that you eat like they want you to? Are you ok with them lying to you about your sexual health because they don’t want you to engage in premarital sex? Are you OK with them lying to you about the risks of alcohol because they don’t approve of drinking?

I seem to remember Americans getting upset at the idea of anyone, especially someone from the government, interfering with the relationship people have with their doctors.

Evidently, this would make Arizona the ninth state to have such a law.

[Cross-posted at The Incidental Economist]