Christine Delaporte

Telling Sick People the Truth Publication date : September 1, 2001

The issue of medical truth is perceived differently by doctors and patients. From the doctor’s point of view: Should a given patient be told the truth? Who should pronounce the diagnosis; when and how? Should the word “cancer” be used, or is it preferable to speak of a “malignant lesion”? Should terminally ill patients be told how much longer they may expect to live? Should the word “death” be uttered? What should be done when the parents of a seriously ill child refuse to listen, preferring a state of denial? Can a psychotic patient be told that he suffers from schizophrenia? Should mental illnesses be regarded as a separate case? From the patient’s point of view: How can I hear the truth and learn to live with the disease? What should I say to friends, family and colleagues? Why are aggression and depression “normal” reactions? How does a mother react when she finds out that she may transmit a genetic disorder to her child? Why are genetic diseases particularly difficult to accept? This book should help health professionals deal with emotionally difficult moments of truth. It should also help patients and their loved ones to feel less alone, once they have heard the truth, and to gradually learn to live with their disease.

Christine Delaporte is a head of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. A doctor, trained as a psychoanalyst, and a biologist, she is particularly interested in psychological problems arising from the disclosure of a serious illness.