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Bad News, Communicating

  • By: Catherine M. Gillotti
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

The physician-patient relationship has received much attention in both the clinical setting and the social sciences. The quality of the communication in this relationship has been linked to outcomes such as patient satisfaction, patient compliance with treatment, medical decision making, bad news delivery, and end-of-life care. The study of bad news delivery, also known as breaking bad news (BBN), has a long and interdisciplinary history. The early history of bad news delivery in the health care context outlines a pattern of paternalism, in which physicians withheld diagnostic and prognostic information from the patient for the patient's well-being. This practice of nondisclosure was supported by the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” The belief was that patients' conditions would worsen if they knew the truth about ...

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