September 16, 2021 | Medscape

'Locker Room' Talk About Death: Time for Oncologists to Stop

From Medscape, written by Ravi Parikh, MD, MPP, FACP:

In a recent inpatient service block, I was seeing patients alongside a resident I had gotten to know well. We were consulted on a patient with metastatic head and neck cancer who had not sought care for over a year.

When the patient presented, his voice was raspy and he could not swallow. He had lost 40 pounds. In addition to his locally advanced disease, his lungs were riddled with metastatic lesions.

When we left the room, the resident and I went to speak to the patient's primary team, and he began to relay our recommendations.

The first words out of his mouth were, "Well, it's pretty clear he's going to die."

The statement took me aback. I wasn't alarmed by the accuracy of what he had said. The patient was obviously not doing well, and he ended up dying soon after this visit.

It was more the abrupt manner in which the resident had spoken about death. The brusque phrasing felt atypical coming from the otherwise gentle-hearted trainee. He wasn't referring to a faceless person. We had just seen the man a few minutes ago and heard his personal struggles. I tried to see if anyone else on the team was caught off-guard, but everyone was taking notes or continuing to listen, seemingly undeterred.

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