is a 23-year-old homosexual patient Hospitalized in a large medical center on the East Coast. He is seriously ill with an AIDS related disease. He wants to see his parents before he dies. When he left home (rural Montana) at the age of 18, his parents had no knowledge of his lifestyle, nor have they seen him since that time. He asks the medical staff to respond to his parent's questions regarding his illness as "some form of leukemia". After being with her son for three days and aware of the fact he is dying, the mom asks, "Does he have AIDS?" Should the patient's right to privacy and confidentiality take priority over the parent's right to the truth?.
The issue of confidentiality between immediate families is a controversial issue, and has been for some time. There are not too many options in this dilemma, either to tell the parents of not to tell. Legally you have an obligation to the patient to keep his confidentiality, if he is not a minor. Ethically there are "4 element principles on respecting a person: autonomy, truth telling, confidentiality, and fidelity"(Darr 20-21). Although in this case even if confidentiality was maintained for the patient, you cannot provide the parents with false information. I will talk about other ways to keep patient confidentiality without providing false information about leukemia to the parents.
This dilemma can be resolved in a few ways, explaining to the patient that you will keep confidentiality about his condition, then explaining to him although you can do this you cannot give false information to his parents. In this case you can either; withhold the information completely from the parents on your patients request, explaining to your patient the importance this may have with the parents, and encourage a family meeting, as the patient explains himself what he is suffering from, or have him conclude the reason for his death in a letter or something, that can be given to the parents after he passes away.