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July 2, 1982

The Physician and the Dying Patient

Author Affiliations

Medical College of Pennsylvania Philadelphia

JAMA. 1982;248(1):29. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330010013006

To the Editor.—  In my role as a counselor to patients with cancer, I have observed that physicians have great difficulty in relating to dying patients. Physicians have always been taught to cure rather than care; therefore, the dying patient presents a dilemma, as cure is impossible. However, it is important for the physician to remember that there is much he can offer a terminally ill patient with cancer.The physician must recognize the importance of communication. Most patients do not ask directly about their prognosis. They do so indirectly. The physician must realize that the fear of death is less important to the patient than fear of the process of dying. When reassured that good care is available and that abandonment by the physician will not occur, the patient will be more prepared to accept his prognosis. Visiting with the patient daily and talking with him honestly can be