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To Tell the Truth

Delivering Bad News to Patients



Co Authors:

Doug Knutson
Family Medicine
The Ohio State University College of Medicine
knutson.1@osu.edu

Doug M. Post
Family Medicine
The Ohio State University College of Medicine
Doug.post@osumc.edu

Abstract:

This case was developed to teach first-year medical students about medical ethics as they apply to patient communication. Students receive an introductory lecture covering the basics of giving bad news and then are asked to apply what they have learned to a real-life medical situation they read about. The case describes a man who, recently retired, is looking forward to a cruise trip with his wife, but he hasn’t been feeling well. Medical tests show he has colon cancer. Assuming the role of the physician, students must decide when and how to break the bad news. To prepare for their role, students learn the six-step protocol for breaking bad news developed by medical oncologist Dr. Robert Buckman, which they then apply to the case.

Objectives:
  • Discuss whether or not patients want to know bad news.
  • Discuss physician strategy for giving bad news as it relates to timing, content, and delivery.
  • Discuss thoughts regarding who should deliver bad news to a patient (primary care physicians versus specialists).
  • Apply the Buckman protocol for delivering bad news to patients.
Keywords: Medical ethics; physician-patient communication; bad news; truth-telling; Buckman protocol; Robert Buckman; colon cancer
Topical Area: Ethics
Educational Level: Graduate, Professional (degree program), Continuing education
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Medicine (General)   Nursing   Communication Science  
Date Posted: 02/02/06
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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