March 2000

The Nathan Cummings Foundation

 

March 2000

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, MA

 

Physicians' Emotional Reactions to Patients' Deaths

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and the University of Pittsburgh are using both qualitative and quantitative methods in conducting the first in-depth study of physicians' emotional responses to their patients' deaths, their attitudes towards palliative care, and their reported practices in caring for terminally ill patients. The study is exploring the emotional re actions of faculty, residents, medical students, and nurses to patients' deaths and examining the impact of medical socialization on "heads and hearts" in a scientifically rigorous manner. Based on this research, an educational intervention will be developed in order to reduce physicians' distress (should it prove to be a factor in care) and improve clinical care and mentoring about end-of-life care. The study findings and the intervention developed will be broadly disseminated.