“What Doctors Know About How Bad It Is, and Won’t Say” (NYT, 7-1-16)

This article from “The New Old Age” section of the New York Times is about doctors not sharing a negative prognosis with the patient and/or family. A related topic is whether the patient and/or family actually hears the negative prognosis.

Here are some excerpts that address important points:

“Understanding what lies ahead can profoundly affect patients’ quality of life—and death. If they underestimate their life expectancy, they may forgo helpful treatment. If they overestimate it—the more common misperception—they may agree to tests and procedures that turn their final weeks and months into a medical treadmill.”

“Frank discussions don’t disrupt the bond between doctors and patients, Dr. Prigerson has shown. They do increase the likelihood that patients receive the end-of-life care they prefer, and leave survivors better able to cope with grief.”

“Overwhelmingly, patients and families say they want to know prognoses, even if they simultaneously mistrust them.”

“[Families] talked about the importance of ‘good vibrations, the power of positive thinking to actually change the outcome,’ Dr. White said. Believing in recovery, they said, might help bring it about.”

Or families think “Many patients in this situation might die, but their relatives were ‘fighters’ or had other unique strengths, so the usual odds didn’t apply. Alternatively, the family’s religious beliefs sometimes dictated that whatever the doctors thought, only God could determine the patient’s future.”

See: www.nytimes.com/2016/07/05/health/what-doctors-know-about-how-bad-it-is-and-wont-say.html

What Doctors Know About How Bad It Is, and Won’t Say
New York Times
Paula Span
The New Old Age
July 1, 2016