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June 5, 1967

Communication With the Fatally Ill

JAMA. 1967;200(10):903. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120230155045

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I have yet to meet any clinician who is completely comfortable dealing with dying patients. Most of us are anxious to become more adept in this area, and yet the customary learning sources supply little more than platitudes and generalities.

This useful manual by a Duke psychiatrist offers the clinician an orderly and pragmatic approach to the fatally ill. The author's theme seems to be (p 33): "... tact both includes and transcends honesty... Information can be imparted truthfully, yet in a manner and at a tempo geared to the patient's ability to accept." The ten chapters thoughtfully evaluate the variables to be considered in this theme and conclude with a brief, carefullyphrased discussion of euthanasia. The book's weakest chapter is a three-page discussion entitled "The Meaning of Fatal Illness and Death." The strongest ones involve the practical matters of communication with patient and family.

The book is quite readable—certainly more