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How Do I Tell My Patient Her Baby Is Dead? 4 Things To Keep In Mind When Delivering The Bad News

Discussion in 'Gynaecology and Obstetrics' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Jan 30, 2020.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

    Mar 5, 2019
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    Nobody likes bringing bad news to a patient, especially when the bad news involves the death of a newborn. Thousands of children die the moment they are born. Although it is rarely the fault of the medical practitioner's, a mother's grief knows no bounds. When handled incorrectly, this can lead to a long legal battle with the patient.

    Consider these things when telling your patient the bad news regarding her newborn:

    1. Don’t make them wait

    A lot of times doctors will often hem and haw and take a very long time to break the news to the parents in the delivery room. Most will cite that they are giving time for the mother to recover from the birthing pains. But despite the pain that they went through, mothers are still very aware of their surroundings and what is going on the delivery room. They expect that the moment they feel their child come out of their womb that he or she will be crying at any given moment. When that moment does not come, they will know in an instant.

    Mothers will then start to look around the room and take in the non-verbal cues from the medical staff. They might even demand to know what they are doing to her child. It is up to you as the presiding practitioner to let her know of her child's passing the moment you have started to sense that something is wrong.

    2. Tell them everything

    Childbirth can be one of the most vulnerable moments in a mother's life, and it is in this moment that they may feel the need to exercise control even though they may have none. When something goes wrong in the process, most doctors will feel the need to keep control to themselves. Most practitioners will attempt to avoid eye contact, or withhold information from the patient until they've sorted out the issue. Some might do this until they've successfully resuscitated the infant.

    However, full disclosure is actually a method that can help alleviate the parents’ worries. By telling them what the current situation is, and walking them through everything that you and your team are doing, this lets them know that you understand their situation and that you care enough about them to let them know what is happening.

    3. Address them by their names

    Giving bad news such as the death of a newborn can be incredibly emotional, and it may be in the medical practitioner's best interests to emotionally detach from the situation. But this does not mean that you have to give the news in a way that feels cold and inhuman. Addressing your patient by their name and using the name they had intended for their infant can inject a little warmth into the otherwise dark conversation.

    4. Give them time

    Doctors can be so caught up in the rush of the hospital environment that patients might feel that they also have to hurry up to make room for others that need medical attention. But in situations involving a death, it's often best to give the grieving parents time to come to terms with the news. Something as simple as clearing the room for them while they collect themselves can make a whole world of difference for them.

    As professionals in the medical field, it's important to remember that our goal is not just to cure what ails the human body. We are also there to soothe and uplift the spirit. A study by Huntington & Kuhn in 2003 found that 71% of malpractice claims are filed in part due to how poorly the patient felt the communication process was. Bearing these tips in mind can help you avoid having a lawsuit on your hands.


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