When a doctor got the cancer results back for a patient, he could tell that the woman had incurable cancer. Because she was enjoying a luxury cruise, he decided to withhold telling her the bad news until she was done with her vacation. Now, the hosts of The Doctors discussed this medical professional’s extremely controversial decision to delay telling the patient that she was going to die, so she could have more fun with family and friends on vacation – and not dwell on the sad news.
The story was first reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. 70-year-old Jenny Scott was the patient who had to deal with the doctor’s decision to withhold the life-changing information. She had experienced a persistent and bad cough in 2016 and decided to get checked out by respiratory doctor David Barnes. She had a biopsy taken and was awaiting a diagnosis.
But before Dr. Barnes was able to deliver the results, Jenny Scott left on a luxury cruise. When Dr. Barnes first took a look at Scott, he told her that it was “99.9 percent not cancer” and that she should go on the cruise that September and enjoy it as much as she could. This was a massive relief for Scott because her sister had died from cancer. Dr. Barnes ordered tests and had them conducted before the cruise, and told her to go on the trip and enjoy herself.
While Jenny was on the cruise ship, she kept coughing and thought that she had something related to noncontagious tuberculosis. This would be treatable upon returning from her vacation and not something that worried her terribly.
When Dr. Barnes received the news that Scott had “incurable” lung cancer, the date was October 6, 2016. Jenny Scott was already on her vacation.
Instead of trying to get in touch with the patient, Dr. Barnes decided to hold onto the information. He planned to reveal the bad news during their upcoming consultation, which was set for the day that she returned from vacation.
Without a doubt, Dr. Barnes’s intentions were good. He wanted to give Jenny Scott time to enjoy her life rather than burdening her with the diagnosis. It wasn’t like he was going to be able to do anything to help her.
However, other people believe that Scott had a right to know the diagnosis immediately. Because the doctor felt that he knew what was best for Jenny Scott to do during her final days, others accused him of sexism. He probably wouldn’t have waited to tell the same information to a male patient. However, he did opt to “protect” Scott from the damaging news.
Three days after the results arrived, Jenny fell ill on the ship. Doctors on board told her that she had lung cancer.
By the time Jenny’s family got her home so she could die in Sydney, the hospital did not have any open beds. By luck, she found a bed at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Hospital and had just enough time to say goodbye.
Do you think Scott’s doctor should have told her the news immediately?
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