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Should a physical therapist tell a patient that she is terminally ill?

Physical therapists (PTs) can and do play important roles in hospice and palliative care for patients with terminal illness. Do they have ethical obligations, however, to patients who are of sound mind and unaware of their diagnosis? Consider this scenario.

Rights and Possible Wrongs

Lynn is a PT in the outpatient department at Sunny Dunes, a well-regarded "continuum-of-life" complex for senior citizens that is located in a state with unrestricted patient access to physical therapist services. When she started working there 6 years ago and met Bertha, a longtime widow, for the first time, Bertha was 78, living in her own apartment on the grounds, still driving, managing all of her own affairs, and such a bundle of energy and enthusiasm that Lynn often described her occasional patient and new friend to others as "a force of nature" whose vitality belied her age.

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