Ethical Challenges in Short-Term Global Health Training

CASE 8: Telling the "Truth"
Matthew DeCamp, Joce Rodriguez , Gene Richardson, Michele Barry, Jeremy Sugarman

The practice of "truth telling" in the health care setting varies across cultures. When trainees engage in short-term global health research and service abroad, they might encounter situations where their own beliefs about what it means to "tell the truth" differ from those of the culture in which they are working. These situations raise a number of ethical issues, including what counts as the "truth"; who should deliver it; and how and when to express it.

This case will help trainees, sending and host institutions recognize the complexity of "truth telling" in different cultural contexts. Understanding these differences can help make short-term training experiences and longer-term collaborations more successful.

In some locales, "truth telling" is closely tied to legal doctrines of informed consent and autonomy; this case does not address these legal issues but instead focuses on how this ethical norm can differ.

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© Stanford University Center for Global Health and the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Project funding provided by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF)