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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPC agrees shake-up

In these days of patient empowerment, information borders on a birthright. GPs are under pressure to give patients every iota of detail about their conditions, food for the search engines they are all assumed to employ.

But new research questions whether giving patients the whole and often brutal truth is always in their best interests. Patients confronted with the term 'heart failure' felt more emotional, and more negative, about their diagnoses than others where the news was broken more gently.

The findings are old-fashioned, paternalistic even. But they suggest a one-size-fits-all approach ­ where GPs give unfettered information ­ can be as damaging as the dark old days where patients were kept, well, in the dark.

GPs must have the freedom to make value judgments about how much information is appropriate. A frail 80-year-old is a different proposition from an eager young adult. In this information-hungry age, it's important these distinctions are not lost.

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