Communication With Patients Facing Serious Illness

Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN


March 30, 2012

A Man With Advanced Colon Cancer

Max is a 60-year-old man diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. He is a widower whose wife died of breast cancer 1 year ago. Max is always accompanied to the clinic for his chemotherapy by his 30 year-old son, Ben, who is a high school football coach. Ben offers constant positive support to his father, insisting that they will "beat this cancer," and he tells the staff that his father is a fighter. Ben avoids any discussion about the potential negative outcomes of his father's disease and has told the physician and clinic staff that it is important to keep his dad motivated to get better.

Max has been transported to radiology for a scan because he has been experiencing increased abdominal pain. The clinic nurse finds Ben alone, watching a football game, in his father's clinic room.


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