Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bad news

You know that feeling when your doctor says something like, "Please sit down, I have some bad news we need to discuss."

You know how your vision gets a little fuzzy, your ears feel this strange pressure with a humming vibrato in the background, your knees get shaky, and you want to vomit?

I know you know it.

You were already feeling pretty anxious driving in for the appointment. The waiting room didn't help. You jumped to the worse possible conclusion. It's bad, really bad. 

Receiving bad news is tremendously difficult. It's impossible to listen, even harder to understand.

Well, I have something to tell you.

It's no fun for the doctor either.

Granted, the implications are less personal, less life-altering. But needless to say,  I, your doctor, lay in bed awake last night at 3am thinking about you. Wondering how best to present the information in such a way that is listenable without being watered-down, in a manner that offers support and reassurance without being overly optimistic, in words that are honest without being hurtful.





I hate being the bearer of bad news.

And I really want to get it right. But I don't always.

I don't want to tell you that your pregnancy isn't viable.
That you have diabetes.
That you need an operation.
I definitely don't want to be the one to tell you there might be something wrong with your beautiful baby.
That it may be serious. 
I hate telling you you have cancer.
Or that the cancer has spread.
Or come back.
I would rather not tell you that your heart isn't pumping like it should be.
That your toe needs to be amputated.
That your mind is going.

I tell you all this not because I want your sympathy-- after all, you are the one receiving the news. It's your body, your health, your illness. The journey will be yours to bear.

I just want you to know-- um, well-- I just want you to know that I care.


  1. Which is precisely why you're a fabulous doctor - not just that you care but you want your patients to know you care.

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