Doctors will sometimes use "benevolent deception"
when dealing with patients who have dementia
"Truthfulness is the foundation of the doctor-patient relationship… But there are limitations and
pitfalls to this process:"
Patient: Doctor, I know I can still drive. Just let me take a test.
Doctor A: I’m sorry, Mr. K, but I can’t help you with that. As we
discussed, your memory impairment makes it unsafe for you to drive.
Patient: Just let me take the test. I can drive just fine.
Doctor A: The memory testing tells us that you would not be a safe driver.
Patient: My memory is not that bad. I know I can drive.
Patient’s wife: Honey, I told you that the car is not working now and needs to be fixed. Let’s talk about it later.
"Mr. K’s wife did what caregivers for individuals with dementia often
do — she placated his concerns for the moment and then redirected him,
in essence telling a lie. Should doctors ever do the same thing?"
Read more in this short essay on doctor / patient ethics: The Benevolent Deception: When Should a Doctor Lie to Patients? The Atlantic>>
– How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey Into the Heart of Growing Old by Marc E. Agronin>>
– Detail from Leonardo Da Vinci’s Study of an Old Man, Da Vinci Gallery>>