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Never Say ‘Die’: Why So Many Doctors Won’t Break Bad News

June 19, 2019

From the Kaiser Health News website

Dr. Ron Naito, an internist in Portland, Ore., was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in August 2018. His doctor wouldn’t confirm the terminal diagnosis, even though Naito read the test results and understood what they meant.

After nearly 40 years as an internist, Dr. Ron Naito knew what the sky-high results of his blood test meant. And it wasn’t good.

But when he turned to his doctors last summer to confirm the dire diagnosis — stage 4 pancreatic cancer — he learned the news in a way no patient should.

The first physician, a specialist Naito had known for 10 years, refused to acknowledge the results of the “off-the-scale” blood test that showed unmistakable signs of advanced cancer. “He simply didn’t want to tell me,” Naito said.

A second specialist performed a tumor biopsy, and then discussed the results with a medical student outside the open door of the exam room where Naito waited.

“They walk by one time and I can hear [the doctor] say ‘5 centimeters,’” said Naito. “Then they walk the other way and I can hear him say, ‘Very bad.’”

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From → Health & Safety

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