Massachusetts General Hospital

I learned more about breaking bad news from business school than medical school

I learned more about breaking bad news from business school than medical school

I practiced the words in my head one more time before I picked up the phone and dialed. When my patient’s son answered, I froze for a moment, imagining the roles were reversed and I was about to receive the news that I had to give him. After collecting my thoughts, I introduced myself, reminding him that we had met the previous night.

Then I said: “I’m calling with bad news. Your father’s illness worsened this morning. He is going to die. I encourage you and your family to come to the hospital as soon as possible to say goodbye.”

My patient’s son will probably remember this phone call for years. I still remember everything about it six months later. It was only the third...

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