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Telling Bad News and Not Walking the Walk
Not Walking the Walk
By Maurice Bernstein, M.D.
Sits there looking into your eyes
He has told you
The bad news.
It came out swiftly
He told bad news to many, but
How will you respond?
Has never been told the same bad news
How will he understand?
I have discussed the need for the physician to have empathy with the patient’s story. Empathy requires that the physician have had some similar experience in life so that there is a true understanding of the patient’s burden. That means that the physician has walked the walk. Patients, I think, can sense when the physician is simply only talking the talk. The talk becomes generic and may gloss over the very concerns that the patient has developed in response to the news. What should a physician do who has to tell the patient the bad news without personally having experienced a similar burden? After the physician tells the patient bad news, what should the patient expect next? What has been your experience with a physician telling you or your loved one the bad news? ..Maurice.