Microlecture 018: Should We Sugarcoat Bad News?

There is a lot of debate about how to give bad news to a patient in a culturally effective manner. Some cultures value direct communication without any frills. Other cultures prefer to be more subtle. In certain cultures, the family will not want the patient to ever know bad news about their condition.

What are the pros and cons of giving bad news in a subtle and oblique manner? Is there a benefit to being subtle and shielding the patient?

VJ Periyakoil, MD, Stanford University School of Medicine.

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