Thursday, August 19, 2004

Should We Let Her Know She's Dying?

My answer is yes, yes and yes.

I have worked with numerous families who feel they are doing a service to their loved one by hiding diagnoses from them.

"If she found out that she has lung cancer, she would go into a severe depression and never recover from it."

"If he finds out that he has pancreatic cancer, he will lose his mind."

"She's not strong enough to handle it."

"I think it is better that he not know."

Well, I have news for you. They know! Whenever nurses work with these types of famlies, the patients are often saying the same thing! "Please don't tell my family that I have cancer. They can't handle it." Everyone is trying to protect everyone else. And you know what the result is? Total lack of communication. Unnecessary isolation. Missed opportunities for making memorable connections between loved ones. I have yet to find a good reason to withhold this information from a patient.


Jennynyc said...

I agree. Anyway, those who don't want to know can utilize denial. My grandmother took me with her into the doctor's office when she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and the doctor told her very clearly that she was going to die, that she had about four months to live. When we got out, my gm said, "So it looks like I have a good chance." It was lucky I was there to tell my family the real news, and we helped her adjust gradually.

mc80 said...

That's an excellent post!

Mia, are you in he funeral industry?