What can people approaching death teach us about how to care?



PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE
Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, Denmark Hill PO 77, The Henry Wellcome Building, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. anna.janssen@kcl.ac.uk
What can people approaching death teach us about how to care?
Patient Educ Couns. 2010 Nov;81(2):251-6. Epub 2010 Mar 12.


This study sought to hear what patients approaching death had to say about doctor-patient interactions and care in order that doctors can learn how to demonstrate care more effectively so that each patient feels cared for as an individual.
In semi-structured interviews, 13 people dying of cancer shared their experiences and perspectives on care within the patient-doctor relationship.
Participants' recollections of experiences with doctors showed that genuine demonstration of care begins with doctors seeking common ground with the patient as a fellow human being and individual. The psychological and physical suffering that results from allowing stereotypical assumptions and behaviors to shape doctor-patient interaction was clear.
The consequences of allowing the stereotypes and power of the primary context in which patients and doctors interact challenge the process of building a caring doctor-patient relationship. Caring doctors overcame this by exploring and carefully attending to the individual characteristics and needs of patients as people first and foremost.
Practice Implications:
To demonstrate genuine care doctors must learn to recognize and question the social expectations and inherent assumptions of medical contexts and roles of patient and doctor and allow unique characteristics of patient and context to guide their interactions.
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