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May 1953


AMA Arch Surg. 1953;66(5):584-585. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1953.01260030601004

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THE CORRECT decision as to whether or not to tell the patient he has persistent cancer is frequently altered by the circumstances, personal, practical, and philosophical. In many instances, one decides that the patient is to be informed, and therein lies the reason for these words—solicited by an eminent surgeon from a most humble physician. To tell or not to tell—is that really the question? It appears to me that the manner in which the physician gives this information is of more importance than the information itself.

To be the bearer of bad tidings is a distasteful task at best, but to present the patient with an ill-defined prognosis and often, unfortunately, with certain limitations borders on the verge of cruelty. To those unfortunate ones who must face this task come varied thoughts on how to ease the burden to the patient and also to the physician. Let me tell

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