Let’s shoot the Messenger…the doctor who delivers bad, but honest news
At the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, advanced-level cancer patients were shown two videos. Both featured an actor-physician using the same empathy, tone, body language and style. The difference was the content regarding further lung cancer treatment.
In one video, the “physician-actor” told a patient with advanced lung cancer (who wasn’t responding favorably to treatment) that he wasn’t a good candidate for additional chemotherapy. The other video showed the “doctor” adding vague information about “further treatment.”
Viewers rated the “doctor” who provided vague information about future treatment higher in compassion that the other, more realistic “doctor.”
The MD Anderson Cancer Center study also relayed that patients who are less aware of their prognosis rated their physicians higher in areas of compassion and understanding.
Doctors who are more realistic are often afraid of being blamed and destroying hope. And today’s healthcare is geared toward doctors being surveyed for their “level of compassion” by CG-CAHPS.
Is this fair?
Is this fair for the doctor who wants to be honest, who doesn’t want to deliver false hope, and place a patient through more unnecessary treatment to be rated with such generalities—particularly when considering end of life situations that not only affect a dying patient, but also will be remembered by the patient’s family and survivors.