KPW shared an incredible story about her husband having a hernia surgery. She was in the waiting room, and even as an experienced health professional, she was concerned that the procedure was going over time. She was not informed of what was happening. Her only comfort was knowing that if something serious was happening, she would see people rushing down the hallway.
Especially in her case as a health professional, she has the health literacy, willingness, capacity, and right to be fully informed. This begs the question, though – is there an excuse as to why she was not kept in the loop? What might it be?
In a situation when a patient is told that something wrong may have happened, panic and fear are common immediate reactions. Hope is on the line, and holding out hope is often an unconscious rationale for delaying or withholding true transparency. The promise of hope, in its power and importance, are weighted against the ideal of honesty. When a family member panics, it can impair or enhance efforts to achieve better care – it can go either way. It can seem safer in the moment to just wait and see, especially if you think the risk is low enough.
Honesty and hope are sometimes placed in opposition. The context and the particular language used are essential in mediating this tricky area.