What to tell dying patients


On April 3, Jane Theriault wrote protesting against doctors who inform their patients when an illness is beyond cure and predict life expectancy.

That is an issue that inevitably touches us all, either as concerned individuals or close family members of the terminally ill. Since the dying process is a very personal and varying experience, it would be a mistake to generalize that a patient should or should not be so advised.

Certainly, even the most callous physicians must find it difficult to impart that knowledge to their patients and, hopefully, do so in a way that conveys a sense of empathy and a glimmer of hope.

Kugler-Ross, on death and dying, tells us that for patients who retain cognative function, there is a dawning awareness that death is impending that comes from the altered behaviors of the medical staff and family members who cannot camouflage their feelings.

That is not always a bad thing, because awareness of the seriousness of an illness helps to ensure that there is enough time to get affairs in order, to reconcile differences in strained relationships and to make arrangements for the care of others close to the patient.

Loren Feldman, Sabattus