Teaching young doctors how to talk with dying patients

The Boston Globe reports on how the four medical schools in Massachusetts have jointly agreed “to teach students and residents how to talk with patients about what they want from life, so future doctors will know how far to go in keeping gravely ill patients alive.” The May 9 story is headlined "Med schools to teach how to discuss patients’ goals for care — and for life.'' We're reprinting the summary of the story that ran on Cambridge Management Group's Web site: cmg625.com

“’We’ve trained all doctors to ask people, ‘Do you smoke?’” said Dr. Harris A. Berman, dean of the Tufts University School of Medicine, who met with colleagues last week from the medical schools at Tufts, Harvard, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts. ‘We’ve trained people to ask about sexual preference. That used to be a difficult discussion to have.”’

Now,  Dr. Berman told The Globe,  physicians should learn how to ask even more deeply personal questions, such as: “What most matters to you? What do you need to make life worth living? In what circumstances would you rather not be alive?”

The newspaper reported that the medical schools’ project  stems from the work of the Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care, “a year-old consortium working to ensure that every resident receives the medical care they want — no more, no less. Dr. Atul Gawande, the surgeon and author who helped found the coalition, approached Berman about coordinating an effort among the medical schools.”

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