Engage with Grace: Talking About the Hard Stuff

When I practiced oncology, I relished time talking with patients and their loved ones about tough decisions – when an indolent condition accelerated and it seemed time to bite the bullet and start treatment, or when a cancer stopped responding to treatment and it seemed right to shift gears and, perhaps, emphasize palliation instead of more chemo, and at every value-loaded decision checkpoint in between.

These conversations weren’t easy; speaking of levels of care, palliation and end-of-life wishes are discussions that many doctors, even oncologists, still avoid.

On Patient Empowerment and Autonomy

…I think the answer is inherent in the goal of being engaged, and that has to do with the concept of patient autonomy – what’s essentially the capacity of a person to live and make decisions according to one’s own set of knowledge, goals and values.

Autonomy in medicine, which borders on the empowerment idea, can be an aim in itself, and therefore valuable regardless of any measured outcome.

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