Too Much Optimism?
Now, this is really a new twist on the long discussion re positive thinking. A new study suggests that too much optimism may be harmful to cancer patients. Specifically, this study looked at the outlook of people who were signing on to early (Phase 1 or Phase 2) clinical trials. The finding was that most cancer patients way over-estimated the possibility that the trial would be personally helpful and, therefore, exposed themselves to side effects and risks that otherwise could have been avoided.
I think it is a stretch to generalize from this to a possible negative consequence of optimism, but it certainly speaks to the questions about informed consent (as in, is there really such a thing?), full disclosure, and honest understanding about the realities of an illness.
Here is a short quote and then a link to an article about it from MSNBC:
An optimistic outlook is often believed to have a positive impact on cancer. But researchers now say that optimism, like anything else, can be overdone. And "unrealistic optimism," which a new study has found to be common among patients enrolling in early phase drug trials, may have a serious downside.
The problem, some experts say, is that unrealistic optimism may lead patients to sign up for very early stage trials when the patients might make other choices if they really understood and completely absorbed the true risks and benefits.
To learn more about the attitudes of patients in early phase trials, which only test toxicity of drugs and aren't intended to have a therapeutic benefit, researchers surveyed 72 patients with advanced cancer. All had signed up for phase I or phase II drug trials, according to a report published in the January issue of the journal IRB: Ethics & Human Research.