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Lets Talk about your Death

/ By Niva Goldberg /

One of the most difficult and stressful parts of Oncologists work with patients and their families, is talking about death and dying . According to a new study by Dr. Leeat Granek, from the Israeli Ben Gurion University, Faculty of Health Sciences, despite this difficulty, Oncologists receive little training in this area. Many do not communicate well with patients.

Photo.Granek1The study was reported in a recent article in The Journal of Oncology Practice published. Granek co-authored the article with three Canadian hospitals.
“We found that the strategies to effective communication about end of life included: being open and honest with patients; having ongoing, early conversations; communicating about the goals of treatment; and balancing hope and reality about end of life, ” says Granek, adding that further research and intervention are necessary to aid oncologists in achieving effective communication about end-of-life issues.
Barriers to implementing these strategies fell broadly into three domains, including physician factors, patient factors, and institutional factors. Physician factors included difficulty with treatment and palliation; personal discomfort with death and dying; diffusion of responsibility among colleagues; using the “death-defying mode”; lack of experience, and lack of mentorship. Patient factors included patients and/or families being reluctant to talk about the end of life; language barriers; and younger age. Institutional factors included stigma surrounding palliative care; lack of protocol about end-of-life issues; and lack of training for oncologists on how to talk with patients about end-of-life issues.

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