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    How do you approach giving bad news to patients?

     

    “I would say certainly not to candy-coat or minimize the problems or issues. Try to make it as realistic as possible when discussing bad news with patients. Patients appreciate an accurate assessment of their condition.

    Have you read: What websites do you recommend to patients?

    They appreciate me being straightforward, but trying to put it in a very realistic perspective: ‘You have cancer. Most of the time people who have cancer in this situation follow this course of treatment and progress. Yours could be different.’ Just saying, ‘You’ve got cancer and everything’s going to be OK’ is detrimental.

    Be as honest as you can without sacrificing the accuracy of the clinical situation. It can help if you can give them some statistics, for example, ‘Most patients do well with this,’ or ‘Many patients do poorly with that,’ and ‘This is what I would recommend.’

    I sincerely believe this is the most valuable thing that I say to patients: ‘This is bad news; however, I will always support you with this issue. Until you are dead or I am dead or both of us are dead, I will never abandon you with this issue.’ ”

    Joseph Grocela, MD

    Boston

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    Karen Nash
    Karen Nash is a medical reporter and media consultant based in Monroeville, PA.

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