Family Members' Opinions about Sharing Bad News. Ann Intern Med. 2008;149:I-48. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-149-12-200812160-00001
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2008;149(12):I-48.
Doctors sometimes have difficulty breaking bad news to patients and their family members. Some doctors are concerned that sharing bad news with a patient will take away most or all of the patient's hope for survival. In instances when patients are too sick to discuss their situation with their doctors, doctors discuss the patient's condition with family members. Little is known about family members' preferences for hearing bad news from their relative's doctors.
To assess family members' preferences for hearing bad news from their relative's doctors.
179 family members of seriously ill patients hospitalized in intensive care units at a hospital in San Francisco, California.
In face-to-face interviews, the researchers asked the family members if they thought it was all right for doctors to withhold bad news to maintain their hope.
Nearly all of the family members said that withholding bad news was not an acceptable way to maintain their hope. Many thought that sharing bad news would help them prepare for their relative's death and for the future and support each other. Others said they relied on doctors for the truth about their relative's medical condition. They relied on other sources, such as God or religion, for hope.
The researchers only assessed family members' attitudes. They did not look at the results of sharing or withholding bad news.
Most relatives of sick family members want doctors to share bad news with them so they can prepare for their family members' death.
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