Giving the news about a life threatening illness to a patient for the first time can be difficult but a detailed, well thought out discussion by a compassionate doctor can help make it easier on the patient.
Oncologist/ Palliative Care Expert Dr. Adil Akhtar provides some key points and that he uses to ease in the discussion of difficult news for a patient.
Please let me know if you are interested in speaking with Dr. Akhtar in more detail. He is available for press interviews for this topic as well as for any oncology/palliative care/hospice care topic.
- Before anything, I review the case thoroughly so that I have a good plan of treatment to discuss with the patient. I am also ready for any questions that could possibly be asked.
- I always chose a quiet and comfortable space to sit down with the patient and his/her family/friends.
- I always make sure that all phones or beepers are turned off; that could be a distraction during discussion.
- I always ask if there is anyone that patient wants to have attend the meeting. Friends, family and anyone that the patient want to be there are welcome.
- When entering the room, I always give full attention in a compassionate manner to the patient and their loved ones. I make direct eye contact. Also, anything I have to do to make my patient feel comfortable.
- I start the meeting by asking the patient their understanding of their problems, and the work up done so far to make the diagnosis.
- I then start my discussion by giving the details of testing done so far, if I can show x-rays or scan I do that with the patient’s permission
- And continuing the discussion, I tell the diagnosis gently, but very clearly without using any scientific terms so that they understand the disease and diagnosis well.
- I always speak clearly and precisely. I am never vague.
- With patient’s permission, I hold their hands to comfort them while I do the discussion.
- Once I am finished, I pause to make sure the patient and family have time to grasp what I just told them, and then ask the patient and the family members if they understand the diagnosis, and if they have any questions.
- I make sure that all the questions that were brought up by the patient during the discussion, have been answered completely and in detail
- When all the questions are answered, I start the discussion of what is the plan for treatment. This reassures them that there is a treatment and help available. I also tell them that I am a part of their team, and will help them through the treatment.
- I will always give some time at the end of the discussion for the patient and loved ones to ask any other questions they need answered. I give them my cell phone number in case they have any questions later on.
- When I leave the room, I make sure that our staff is available to comfort them and answer any question which may come up.
- The patients will most likely have strong emotions toward being given the news so always reassure them with words that will boost their confidence.