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Medical Writings |

“I Wish Things Were Different”: Expressing Wishes in Response to Loss, Futility, and Unrealistic Hopes

Timothy E. Quill, MD; Robert M. Arnold, MD; and Frederic Platt, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

Dr. Quill: University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry; Rochester, NY 14642 Dr. Arnold: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582 Dr. Platt: University of Colorado School of Medicine; Denver, CO 80205

Acknowledgments: The authors thank the American Academy on Physician and Patient and the Bayer Institute for Health Care Communication. Both organizations have helped the authors to develop their skills in counseling patients and in teaching the physicians these skills.

Requests for Single Reprints: Timothy E. Quill, MD, University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 601, Rochester, NY 14642.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Quill: University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 601 Rochester, NY 14642

Dr. Arnold: Montefiore University Hospital, 200 Lothrop Street, Suite W932, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582.

Dr. Platt: 1901 East 20th Avenue, Denver, CO 80205.

Ann Intern Med. 2001;135(7):551-555. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-135-7-200110020-00022
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Physicians who care for patients encounter many powerful and painful emotions, including anger, sadness, fear, grief, loss, hopelessness, and blame. Many studies suggest that physicians should express empathy in response to emotion-laden patient statements to ensure that patients feel listened to and understood. These physician responses usually consist of efforts to comprehend how things feel to the patient and to express that understanding back to the patient (18).

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