When Ignorance Is Bliss

Respecting patients’ right to not know

By Mikkael Sekeres, MD, MS

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“I don’t know if I’m looking forward to being 98.”

My 97-year-old patient revealed this to me during our first meeting in my clinic examination room.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He rested both forearms on the high arms of his wheelchair, which caused his shoulders to hunch and gave the impression that he was about to spring into action. He spoke deliberately, choosing his words carefully. His eyes were rheumy but sharply focused, commanding my attention.

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“I don’t want to end up… you know, blotto,” he said, quickly pantomiming a person slouched to one side of his chair, mouth open.

“Why do you think that might happen?” I asked.

“Because of my medical condition, or whatever you’re going to recommend I treat it with,” he answered, matter-of-factly…

Read the full New York Times column by Dr. Sekeres, Director of Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center’s Leukemia Program. You can follow him on Twitter @MikkaelSekeres.

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