Breaking the News

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30 Jun 2016 - General

As Clinical psychologist one of the biggest challenge we face is to inform parent about the diagnosis. I am sure fellow medical health professionals also face this kind of a difficulty, especially informing relatives about a chronic or fatal diseases.

Disclosing the news to parents especially about neurodevelopment disorders is a challenge as first reaction is denial, followed by an attempt to seek second and third opinion. Over and above all of this, the point is to explain them what is the disorder all about, and why is it that. Limitation lies as there are no medical test like blood test, MRI or CT scan through which can either confirm or refute of the diagnosis. As parents struggle to accept and absorb the problem, we have to take the conversation one step ahead and clarify of it being a disorder and not a disease hence not curable.

I do sometimes try to think from the other side by stepping in their shoes; it completely melts my heart and makes it indigestible. It feels like the world has collapsed as for any parent, kids of that age are their world. Every parent has plans and dreams which are now shattered and the future looks like a rocky road.

At such situations, we as mental health professionals believe that the news has to be broken very gently to the parents so that the emphasis is on the betterment of the child rather than making it seem like a disability.


Dr Marinelle, your task looks difficult, but glad to know about your approach and sensitivity towards situation. I wish we had medically trained counsellors at this stage who could spend some more time with family members and caregivers as they go through an emotional turmoil while taking any decision. There is no second thought over the fact that Dr’s specially surgeons are busy and have other patients to attend thus can give minimum time per patient. Dr’s not giving enough time to explain and ...
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Being a senior neurosurgery resident, I usually have the task of giving out bad news: aneurysms, massive strokes, malignant brain tumors. I try do this in a very objective manner, setting my emotions aside. My usual practice is to explain the CT scan/ MRI for them to have a visual magnitude of the problem and then I explain the clinical status of the patient. More often than not, relatives would ask if there’s any chance to live. That’s the difficult question to answer because as much as we want...
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It's true that since there are no definite investigations to provide parents in kids with neurodevelopmental disorders, they would naturally want to get a second or even third opinion. When breaking bad news, I found it very helpful if I started by assessing the expectation of my patients by asking what they might think they are suffering from and using that as a guide to steer the conversation. If the patient's expectation is better than that of the news you are going to break to him o...
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I would agree that breaking bad news will usually be a challenging task for any doctor. No one in the world would like to listen to any bad news. The patient who received the bad news will have a variety and mixture of feeling and thought like anger, tearful, anxiety, denial, sadness, depress hopelessness, blame, guilt, and loss. It is not easy for them to cope with it, especially for the bad news of having terminal illness or advanced malignancy. As a clinician, we should always empathise for ...
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