Truth Telling and Palliative Care

  • Lidia Schapira
  • David P. Steensma


The primary mission of palliative care is to assist and guide patients through all phases of treatment and crucial to this work is maintaining the patient’s integrity and dignity. To accomplish this, patients need to understand their prognosis and be guided to take an active role in crafting a treatment plan that conforms to individual values and goals of care. Information needs change over time and may differ among members of a single family. We propose that truth is not just an item traded between doctors and patients but, instead, a concept that is larger than a set of facts and scientific constructs. Clinicians struggle with protective instincts and their own discomfort when faced with the duty to inform and this can lead to avoidance. We review the data that supports honest and compassionate disclosure and frame this exchange as an important step in a model based on individual resilience and healthy coping.


Palliative Care Truth Telling Emotional Coaching Incurable Illness Cultural Humility 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MedicineMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Dana-Farber Cancer InstituteBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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