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Training helps doctors talk to dying patients

Chicago Tribune/Reuters Health, August 18, 2011

Doctors are notoriously bad at delivering that tough message: You are going to die. But a new study shows a short training program might help them communicate better about terminal cancer, giving the patient emotional support and involving his or her significant others. The work, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, assesses the first program designed specifically to improve doctors' communication skills when faced with patients whose disease turns out to be fatal. Doctors often try to avoid straight talk about their patients' outlook in this situation, note. Tanja Goelz, of the University Medical Center in Freiburg, Germany, and her colleagues. Yet most patients and their families want realistic information, the researchers write. So they developed a training program involving a 1.5-day communication workshop and a 30-minute coaching session to improve the situation.