How Doctors Should Talk and Inform Patients About Death Essay Example

Many people today have a fear of dying. Coming to the end of life can be very scary and stressful to think about. For chronically ill patients, death is a part of the conversation more likely than usual. Doctor’s tend to guesstimate the amount of time a chronically ill patient has left, but do they really know the time span? It is very unlikely that one person can sense the time someone is going to die. Delivering bad news to family’s and patients is what doctor’s today struggle with most. Should doctors of the chronically ill be trained in how to discuss illness and death with their parents? 

Many doctor’s today go through years of training and schooling. Obtaining a degree as a doctor takes time and patience.  Learning how to deal with sick people is obviously apart of the job, but chronically ill patients are where doctors are put to the real test. “Most of us treat chronic conditions, but the ‘save lives’ thing isn't the bulk of what we do in medicine” (Tedeschi 1). In these situations doctors have to show everything they have learned, they have to find the solution. The classes to become a doctor are all of the stereotypical classes someone can see a doctor taking. Classes like anatomy, chemistry, and biology are all expected for someone who is wanting to become a doctor.

Doctor’s are put into classes where they learn how to take care of sick people, but usually not classes that are about the end of life. According to the PBS Frontline Video “Being Mortal,” It is proven that end of life discussions need to occur months before doctors see the end of their patient's life coming to an end. (1) These conversations may be very common for some doctors, but for others, it may be completely new. According to the PBS Frontline video “Being Mortal,” Over 75% of doctors are not trained to give the end of life speech. (1)  

A hand full of people go into a doctor’s office complaining about something small. These small symptoms can turn into a life-threatening disease. Chronic illness is sadly starting to be on the rise. Chronic illness is the leading cause of death and is expected to increasingly rise by 2020 (“NCBI” 1). Sadly, there is nothing doctors can do today, besides knowing how to deal with these situations. Doctor’s today struggle to relay that information to their patient's and their families.

Many patients are scared of what their future holds when they find out they are on the verge of dying. According to the “ABC News” Article, “Many patients go through the bargaining stage when they try to make themselves believe that they can do something to prevent their death.” (1) Different patients have different views about death and are fine with finding out they are dying late in the situation. Others, on the other hand, would be very upset finding out a month before they die that they don’t have much longer to live. “The mismatch between the way medical education is delivered and the reality of medical practice, can lead to disillusioned doctors and poorly served patients” (“NCBI” 1).

Social Workers

Like doctor’s, social workers have difficult jobs. Both have to relay information that some people just don’t want to hear. Social workers are trained to talk with emotionally unstable people and help them cope with their problems. Because social workers today have been trained for this kind of thing, hospitals like to have a social worker with the family of a chronically ill patient. Most of the time, social workers are the ones who talk with the families of the deceased or chronically ill. Many people say having a social worker helps in these situations. In fact, some say they would rather have a social worker instead of their doctor in times like this. Having someone who can be there during the most emotional times, are the people who help the most. Family’s seem to feel more relaxed and calm about the situation. The way social workers get their point across is what hospitals wish they had today. If it were possible to put the mind of a social worker with the skills of a doctor, that would be the dream combination. 

No one ever said being a doctor was easy nor is it always a rewarding feeling. Doctor’s today are put into situations that can really take a toll on their emotional health. Day in and day out doctor’s expectations for themselves are very high. They are the ones responsible for giving their patients the best care. As soon as one thing goes wrong or one patient dies, a doctor may immediately feel helpless. The way doctors communicate with the family’s of the chronically ill is very important. “When a doctors message moves abruptly from everything’s great to she’s dying, patients don't have enough time to adjust to the bad news” ( Bailey 1). Doing this can be very hard when there is no time telling how long this person may have left to live.

Not only do doctor’s today have to deal with their own life problems, but then come to work and deal with chronically ill patients who they know will not make it. People can’t expect doctors too know exactly what time, day or year their patient is going to get worse or even die. People today think doctors are terrible at relaying bad news to patients. Older doctors that are in our hospitals today have even bigger trouble giving their patients bad news. According to the article “End Notes,” The older the doctor, the less likely they will be good at the end of life situation speeches (1). In the past, the doctor’s main focus was about their patient. That is how it is today, with the exception of the end of life speeches. Times have changed to where some people now blame doctors for the death of a patient.

Just like a bond between a mother and a daughter, a doctor-patient relationship is just as important. Having a close relationship with someone whose job is to hold another person’s life in their hands is huge. A person would want to go to their doctor for any issues or concerns they are having. According to Bailey, the conversations between some doctor’s and their patients can be very scripted. (1) Doctors should have conversations ready when they sense a conversation coming up in the future. “Once you've established the type of patient you’re dealing with, you should be willing to be as specific as science allows” (“ABC News” 1). Not one person would want to go to a doctor every month and not have a good relationship with them.


In conclusion, I feel as if doctors should be trained on how to relay negative information to families. By doing this, it will make the doctor's job easier. Not only will they get the training about how to care for others, but also how to deal with tough situations. I think doctor’s today would really benefit from this type of training. In my opinion, you would start to see big changes in hospitals all around the world. Not only would the doctor’s become more educated, but also feel more comfortable when they are put in these mourning situations. These changes would benefit our friends and family who may have to deal with a chronic illness in the future.



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