Difficult Conversations: From Diagnosis to Death

Joel D. Marcus and Frank E. Mott. Difficult Conversations: From Diagnosis to Death.The Ochsner Journal: Winter 2014, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 712-717


Although many published guidelines address difficult communication, communication training is lacking. Consequently, many clinicians may have difficulties with, or in the worst-case scenario, avoid delivering bad news and discussing end-of-life treatment. Clinicians also struggle with how to have the last conversation with a patient and how to support patient autonomy when they disagree with a patient’s choices.

There is a clinical imperative to educate physicians and other healthcare workers on how to effectively deliver information about a patient’s health status, diagnostic avenues to be explored, and decisions to be made at critical health junctions. Knowing how to implement the most rudimentary techniques of motivational interviewing, solution-focused brief therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help physicians facilitate conversations of the most difficult type to generate positive change in patients and families and to help them make decisions that minimize end-of-life distress.

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