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Family Reaction to Bad News Can Influence Organ Donation

Newswise - Dr. Bradley Harrold remembers the first time he had to deliver bad news to a family.

"It was traumatic for everyone involved and it never gets easier -- ever," said Harrold, a fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine.

Medical schools traditionally haven't devoted much time to teaching students how to communicate bad news to patients or their families, particularly news about brain death.

While less than 5 percent of all patients die by brain death criteria, it is this same population of patients that comprises the largest group of potential organ donors. With more than 90,000 patients waiting for a solid organ transplant, a clear explanation about brain death is an important first step before families can begin considering the option of organ donation.

"If interactions between doctors and families about brain death are uncomfortable or incomplete, any future discussions about organ donation can be impeded," says June Hinkle, who works with the families of critically ill or injured patients at The Ohio State University Medical Center.

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