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Communicating with Patient’s Families

Instead of this

Say this

“Continuing care is futile in this case.” “We don’t believe additional treatment will benefit
your husband.”
“What do you understand about your
father’s condition?”
“What has the team been saying about your father’s
condition and treatment options?”
“It’s your decision…It’s up to you.” “Help me understand what is important to you and
we will figure out what to do next together.”
“Do you want us to ‘do everything’?” “We could keep him in the ICU on the ventilator
and give him additional medications if he needs
them or we could focus more on making sure he is
comfortable than keeping him alive longer?”
“There is nothing more we can do.” “We don’t have any further treatments that will
slow down your wife’s disease, but we can treat her
pain is treated and make sure that she is as
comfortable as possible.”
“I don’t have a crystal ball…” “Based on my clinical experience with this disease, the best we can
hope for is [X]. I think it is most likely that [Y].”
“Do you have any questions?” “What questions can I answer for you?” or “What
else can I tell you?”

Adapted from Malek J, et al. Critical Conversations: Say This, Not That. Chest.