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Psychological medicine

Giving bad news

John Buchanan

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Abstract

The patient’s illness experience has physical and emotional elements, and the management of issues in each area is part of the responsibility of medical carers.

Article Extract

Remember
  • In the community, widespread fears of illness and dying inhibit communication. Elements of these include: lack of close experience of death in the modern community; high expectations of health; fears about severe symptoms of physical illness and about treatment; and fears about psychological breakdown and ‘going crazy’.
  • In some cultures there is a belief that to tell someone of a terminal illness will cause them to ‘go crazy’. Some families, therefore, may be vigorously opposed to ‘telling’ interviews, and there may be a need to deal (gently) with the denial of the family first.

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