It is not uncommon for hospice admission nurses to receive requests from loved ones to withhold information from patients about their diagnosis or prognosis. Such requests may occur in the context of similar requests having previously been honored by other, nonhospice care teams. This article explores the ethical questions raised by such requests and the motivations behind them. Following, it offers ways to engage requests for nondisclosure that honor ethical obligations to patients and families in a manner consistent with the hospice philosophy of care. The principles of truthfulness, sensitivity, and beneficence are introduced, and a framework using those principles to respond to requests for nondisclosure is proposed.
E. Willis Partington, MDiv, LCSW-R, CT, is bereavement counselor, VNSNY Hospice and Palliative Care, New York.
Timothy W. Kirk, PhD, is assistant professor of philosophy, York College, City University of New York, Jamaica.
Address correspondence to E. Willis Partington, MDiv, LCSW-R, CT, VNSNY Hospice and Palliative Care, 1250 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10001 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.