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December 11, 1996

Delivering Bad News

Author Affiliations

Children's National Medical Center Washington, DC

JAMA. 1996;276(22):1801. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540220025017

To the Editor.  —The article by Dr Ptacek and Ms Eberhardt1 stimulated 2 discussion points worthy of mention, one on process and the other on content. The process comment is that reviewing the literature on any topic can be more difficult than meets the eye, especially when trying to capture all that has been published on that topic. In the reported study, the authors chose what seemed to be an appropriate descriptor with which to search the MEDLINE database; however, some of this literature is categorized under headings such as communication or counseling skills, death, criticalincident—stress debriefing process, and crisis intervention. In addition, other databases, such as PsycLIT, can be valuable resources on these types of topics.Although teaching how to give bad news was not the focus of this review, taking the information from the journal to the patient is the critical step. Another recent article2 outlines