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Books, Journals, New Media
December 24/31, 2003

Communication

Author Affiliations
 

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(24):3256-3257. doi:10.1001/jama.290.24.3256

Physicians and other students of conversation will find Douglas Maynard's Bad News, Good News immensely clarifying. Readers will come to understand the sequential steps that make up "giving news," just what makes information into news, and the different sequences we use to deliver good and bad news.

However, the reader not already familiar with linguistic terms may find the book's terminology a bit over-technical. So I suggest starting with chapter 8, "Bad News and Blood: HIV Infects Individuals with Hemophilia." Maynard's blood-chilling 10-page narrative details how we allowed more than 60% of the 15 500 US persons with hemophilia to become infected with the human immunodeficiency virus despite the insightful warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as early as 1982, when fewer than a dozen such cases had appeared. How come? It has to do with how we present bad news (in this case, CDC scientists talking to representatives from the US Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the National Hemophiliac Foundation, the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, the National Gay Task Force, and the Pharmaceutical Manufacture Association) and how recipients of discomfiting bad news respond: by blaming the messenger, with emotional upheaval, and with efforts to disconnect the bad-news-remediation pairing. ("It's not that bad and we don't have to do anything about it.")

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