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  1. Ptacek, J. T. PhD
  2. Ellison, Neil M. MD


This article reports the results of an investigation designed to obtain descriptive information about what typically transpires in bad news transactions between patients and physicians. A sample of 115 health care providers who were attending a 1-day workshop on palliative care issues responded to questions regarding bad news transactions between physicians and patients. Results indicated that giving the news in person, giving the news in a private place, having patient support providers present, and using a warm and caring tone are highly typical of bad news transactions, whereas exploring patient emotional reactions, relying on touch, delivering the news at the patient's pace, and providing written information are less typical. Nurses and physicians diverged in the perceptions about what typically transpires, suggesting that studies focusing only on physician reports or recommendations may be misleading. These data also point to the need to obtain other views of bad news transactions, and they argue for research designed to assess the relation between actual patient-physician encounters and subsequent patient-related outcomes.