Health Care Information Technology and Informed Consent: Computers and the Doctor-Patient Relationship

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Book Review

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Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law




A few weeks ago, a thirty-five-year-old Connecticut man was stunned by his diagnosis—scleroderma—and even more stunned by his doctor's advice: “Whatever you do, don't check the Internet. It's not just that there's misinformation out there .... It's just that there are 100 different ways any disease can play out, but you will just have one. Let's not worry about the other 99.”1
These first few sentences of a recent article in a major metropolitan newspaper produce a sense of dejà vu. Doctors sounded this same paternalistic note throughout the history of medicine until well into the twentieth century.2 Since medicine could do precious little until then to affect the course of patient illness, physicians protected patients from the unpleasant truths associated with disease to avoid impairing whatever possibilities existed for enjoying life.3 Moreover, doctors have always recognized the placebo effect in medicine,4 and *1020 understand that many patients improve simply because a trusted authority figure reassures them they will.5

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