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The Importance of Patient–Provider Communication in End-of-Life Care


Successful formulation and implementation of end-of-life care requires ongoing communication with the patient. When patients, for reasons of general medical or psychiatric illness, fail to verbally communicate, providers must be receptive to messages conveyed through alternate avenues of communication. We present the narrative of a man with schizophrenia who wished to forgo hemodialysis as a study in the ethical importance of attention to nonverbal communication. A multilayered understanding of the patient, as may be provided by both behavioral and motivational models, can inform the provider’s ability to receive, process, and represent communicated content to the patient or his or her surrogate decision-maker.

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Correspondence to Timothy R. Rice.

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Rice, T.R., Dobry, Y., Novakovic, V. et al. The Importance of Patient–Provider Communication in End-of-Life Care. Bioethical Inquiry 9, 439–441 (2012).

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  • End-of-life care
  • Therapeutic alliance
  • Capacity
  • Surrogate decision-maker
  • Renal failure
  • Dialysis
  • Consent
  • Moral responsibility
  • Physician duty