Withholding Information Dilemma in Healthcare

The dilemma of withholding information has caused several heated debates in healthcare studies. Many people would consider concealing information from the patient a serious offence which can cause serious harm. Moreover, withholding information can be regarded as undermining of patient’s independence and later can place mistrust in doctors which is crucial for the success of treatment. Furthermore, patients also require integrity because they feel especially vulnerable in their condition. They want their doctors to be honest about the health status of patients. However, some situations present great difficulty for the doctor to be sincere. According to Green et al. (2015), “keeping secrets and withholding information creates internal conflict in the nurses as they balance the principle of confidentiality with the right to know information” (p. 485). That is why an efficient, ethical code for nurses must offer guidance on dealing with ethical problems that occur during the process of treatment. The aim of this paper is to present a case of an ethical decision-making dilemma, where a code violation can be conducted. Moreover, a decision and recommendations will be listed in this paper.

For example, a patient who has suffered from opioid addiction has some sort of physical injury that requires surgery. After the surgery is performed, the physician does not prescribe any pain-relieving medication. Instead, he orders acetaminophen, hoping that the patient will get a placebo effect. His concerns are understandable as the doctor does not want to fuel the addiction. Nevertheless, a patient suffers from agonizing pain; the acetaminophen has no effect on him. He wants to know what a nurse is giving him and why it does not work.

In this case, a nurse faces a complicated situation that requires a prompt solution. It cannot be done without considering ethical code and possible legal consequences. The immediate issue that occurs in this dilemma is if a nurse should conceal the truth from the patient. Moreover, along with the physician, a nurse should consider if this is an appropriate use of placebo since a patient suffers immensely. The issue of patient’s independence arises too since the autonomy in managing his own pain is stripped of him. If a patient or his family finds out about it, the doctor may face legal repercussions such as a claim for negligence and breach of contract. Such violation is not likely to constitute a criminal act since the medical staff’s actions does not lead to the death of a patient.

Nevertheless, it can be enough to constitute a civil act. In order to prevent this from happening, the code of ethics (2015) provides guidance on such questions. First of all, Provision 1 explains that “the nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and unique features of each patient” (Bell, 2015, p. 1). Concealing the truth from the patient while he suffers from excruciating pain and depriving him of his right to plan his own care violate all these goals. Moreover, as Provision 5.4 indicates that by deceiving patients the integrity of patients is threatened (Bell, 2015, p. 20). This case, however, is controversial since a physician ordered to withhold information because he hoped for a placebo effect. Besides, there is a serious concern regarding the opioid addiction of a patient. While such medication can help to deal with pain, in the long run, it could lead to a relapse of addiction.

As for recommendations for resolving moral distress, it should be pointed out that this dilemma cannot be solved by a nurse alone. The reason for this is the fact that a nurse is only allowed to give medication to patients, not prescribe it. It is evident that the process of solving this dilemma should involve a physician since he has the authority to change the prescription. In their research, Epstein and Turner (2015) suggest informing the patient that “the physician has prescribed saline in the hopes that he would have a placebo effect” (p. 3). This would mitigate the concern about the threat of deception to patient’s integrity that is described in Provision 5.4. However, this decision will undoubtedly damage a patient’s trust in the medical staff. Moreover, it may undermine the relationship between the nurse and the doctor. Nevertheless, as it was mentioned earlier, the ethical code recommends being honest with patients.

Another method of solving the issue is to engage in a conversation with a physician. A nurse should indicate her concerns about the condition of a patient and try to convince the physician that the placebo effect is not possible in this case. This conversation can provide a positive outcome not only for a patient but for the relationship between the physician and a nurse as well. Together they can figure out more a more proper treatment plan. However, if the physician refuses to collaborate and insists on using the acetaminophen, a nurse should report the matter to the authorities. In such circumstances, the physician would be forced to work out a different treatment plan or pass this patient to another doctor.

In conclusion, it would appear that despite the duality of the situation, honesty and following ethical code would seem like an appropriate answer to the issue. All in all, integrity plays a significant role in the medical and nursing profession. Nonetheless, it is also crucial to balance honesty with hope so the patient’s mental condition is not harmed, and his trust in medicine is not lost.


Bell, L. (2015). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements. American Nurses Association. Web.

Epstein, B., & Turner, M. (2015). The nursing code of ethics: Its value, its history. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 20(2), 1-10.

Green, J., Darbyshire, P., Adams, A., & Jackson, D. (2015). A burden of knowledge: A qualitative study of experiences of neonatal intensive care nurses’ concerns when keeping information from parents. Journal of Child Health Care, 19(4), 485-494.

Calculate the price
Make an order in advance and get the best price
Pages (550 words)
*Price with a welcome 15% discount applied.
Pro tip: If you want to save more money and pay the lowest price, you need to set a more extended deadline.
We know how difficult it is to be a student these days. That's why our prices are one of the most affordable on the market, and there are no hidden fees.

Instead, we offer bonuses, discounts, and free services to make your experience outstanding.
How it works
Receive a 100% original paper that will pass Turnitin from a top essay writing service
step 1
Upload your instructions
Fill out the order form and provide paper details. You can even attach screenshots or add additional instructions later. If something is not clear or missing, the writer will contact you for clarification.
Pro service tips
How to get the most out of your experience with Online Academic Experts
One writer throughout the entire course
If you like the writer, you can hire them again. Just copy & paste their ID on the order form ("Preferred Writer's ID" field). This way, your vocabulary will be uniform, and the writer will be aware of your needs.
The same paper from different writers
You can order essay or any other work from two different writers to choose the best one or give another version to a friend. This can be done through the add-on "Same paper from another writer."
Copy of sources used by the writer
Our college essay writers work with ScienceDirect and other databases. They can send you articles or materials used in PDF or through screenshots. Just tick the "Copy of sources" field on the order form.
See why 20k+ students have chosen us as their sole writing assistance provider
Check out the latest reviews and opinions submitted by real customers worldwide and make an informed decision.
Classic English Literature
It was my first time using such a service. Essay was good and nicely formatted.
Customer 452441, February 16th, 2022
English 101
IThank you
Customer 452631, April 6th, 2021
Human Resources Management (HRM)
On time and as always a great service! This semester has been very time consuming a tough for my family so this service has not only been a life saver but helped me keep up my grades! If you are in a time crunch or need help, don't hesitate! They are worth it!
Customer 453077, April 4th, 2022
Health Care
The writer did not follow my choice of topic (Food/Water Insecurity, Hunger, & Poverty), the paper was instead written about Climate Change in Africa. However, the paper was still great and informative. Thank you!
Customer 452777, January 28th, 2022
Paper much better compared to the one prior revision request. References need to be no more than the past 5 years.
Customer 452547, July 20th, 2021
Emergency Management
Overall, I think it's a great service. I have yet to submit the assignment, so I don't know what kind of grade I'll get. But customer service was excellent. Reviews were made and the assignment proofed for satisfaction.
Customer 453015, December 15th, 2021
Customer 453057, May 23rd, 2022
Social Work and Human Services
Great work I would love to continue working with this writer thought out the 11 week course.
Customer 452667, May 30th, 2021
IT, Web
Awesome paper in such a short amount of time. Was in a jam with another service who didn't deliver, but Theresa did the job correctly. I will use her again to do my essays for sure!
Customer 452967, November 27th, 2021
I just need some minor alterations. Thanks.
Customer 452547, February 10th, 2021
Criminal Justice
The paper was not accused of plagiarism and was written very well. I will let you know the grade once it is graded. Thank you
Customer 452671, April 26th, 2021
Thank you!
Customer 453145, April 19th, 2022
Customer reviews in total
Current satisfaction rate
3 pages
Average paper length
Customers referred by a friend
15% OFF your first order
Use a coupon FIRST15 and enjoy expert help with any task at the most affordable price.
Claim my 15% OFF Order in Chat
Live ChatWhatsApp