In my last post I promised to address whether linking health to personal virtue is "good" or "bad" medicine. Followers of this blog know what I'm going to say:
It's awful if in addition to the burdens of progressive illness patients also feel guilty that their "wrong" attitude is allowing their condition to deteriorate. Disabusing these patients of their belief that they must be cheerful and optimistic all the time IS good medicine. It can free them to feel whatever emotions they are feeling and then to use the unpleasant feelings to help them move forward.
But I've become more circumspect when it comes to criticizing patients who are doing well now and insist it's because they have the "right" attitude. Their belief likely encourages them to feel optimistic and surely helps calm their fear of tomorrow. In doing so, their belief helps them live as fully as possible.
Disabusing these patients may, indeed, have a benefit down the line if their condition takes a turn for the worse. However, your challenging their belief may cause them to feel angry, alienated or fearful at a time they were feeling fine. Your efforts to enlighten them may disrupt a coping mechanism that was helping them.
Is it wrong to hold your tongue and let them believe what they want to believe while they are doing well, if it's helping them feel better emotionally and is helping them get good care?