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BMJ 2001; 322 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7294.1131 (Published 05 May 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1131
  1. Claudio Crisci, chief of the department of neuro- rehabilitation, medical centre of Telese Terme
  1. Italy

    Diagnosing an untreatable illness is a bad moment, and explaining it to a patient is even worse. This experience is unusual for Italian doctors, who usually prefer to tell the patient's partner or relatives. It is then up to them to decide whether or not to let the patient know about his or her fate.

    This is not ethical practice, nor is it right to treat patients as children, but it is common in Italy, where we are not taught how to deal with patients or how to give bad news. Our Latin culture and famous sentimental attitude still reject the idea of an inevitable death. We prefer to ignore it and pretend there will be a happy ending.

    So it was unusual for me to explain to my patient and her husband that she was suffering from a …

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