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Information Withheld from Patient


Specializes in School Nursing, Public Health Nurse. Has 3 years experience.

I'm a school nurse and I've come across a very disturbing situation. I've learned that a student has a malignant brain tumor. Student is aware of the tumor, but was told by the parent and physician that it is benign. Student is in their mid-teens and has no medical condition that would prevent them from fully understanding the situation. The parent has told staff about the tumor and that we under no circumstances should reveal to the student the tumor is life threatening. The physician is agreeing to go along with what the parent says.

I do not think this is in the best interest of the student. I feel the student has the right to know the truth about their condition. Of course I do not want to come out and tell the student the truth, but what can I do? I thought about contacting the hospital's ethic board, but I cannot find any law on whether or not it is legal for a physician to lie to a minor about their medical condition if the parent gives permission. I just feel awful because this student was relieved when they find out they were "going to be okay" and it was "nothing".

Jolie, BSN

Specializes in Maternal - Child Health. Has 35 years experience.

I'm sorry that you're in this situation. I would suggest that you contact the district attorney and ask for advice on how to proceed.

Child Protective Services may also be able to advise you.

The parents may believe that they are somehow protecting their child, but by sharing this information with others they have virtually guaranteed that their child will hear it from someone else. I pity both the child and the poor soul who unwittingly discloses the information to him/her.

dream'n, BSN, RN

Specializes in UR/PA, Hematology/Oncology, Med Surg, Psych. Has 28 years experience.

Unless they are denying treatment for the student by stating the tumor is benign (then you need to call CPS), I think you need to stay out of it. There may be special family circumstances you are not aware of; such as patient may have made suicidal threats at home if the tumor is malignant and the family is pursing psych treatment first or they are planning a special vacation prior to informing the patient of the bad diagnosis. There are so many variables that you are not privy to in this patient's case.

coughdrop.2.go, BSN, RN

Specializes in School Nursing, Public Health Nurse. Has 3 years experience.

Thank you so much. I have decided to step back and I have let my higher ups know. If someone more serious comes about this we will contact CPS.