A Delicate Balance

Feb 17 2016 Published by under Life of a Physician

As a physician, I often give families bad news. I get to walk in the room and tell them that their child's kidneys will fail or have failed. I then get to tell them about dialysis and transplant, treatments that can give their child a new lease on life. Neither cures their kidneys, but they can provide opportunities for long, fulfilling lives.

I have been on the receiving end of bad news in my life as well, but I have recently become more attuned to its delivery. Some doctors come over waaaaay more optimistic than is warranted. While some families may appreciate a "glass half full" message, in this day you better assume that everyone has been online. The first hit on Google will likely provide a more truthful outcome message that decreases your believability. I understand that no one wants a completely hopeless message, but you have to balance a low possibility of successful treatment with reality. People deserve to have the truth available to them, even if they choose to ultimately deny it.

Bad news generally needs to be balanced with some ray of hope. It's a delicate act, and I am quite grateful for those who do it well.

One response so far

  • Zuska says:

    Indeed. Appropriate and effective communication from the doc is almost as important as the right treatment. I love my docs who have been straightforward with me, but not to the point of being unfeeling. It's a real skill.

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