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Physician Attitudes and Practices at the Time of Patient Death

Susan W. Tolle, MD; Diane L. Elliot, MD; David H. Hickam, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1984;144(12):2389-2391. doi:10.1001/archinte.1984.00350220117024.
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A growing literature on death and dying has resulted in more open discussions among terminally ill patients, their families, and physicians. More attention has been paid to patient death in medical education. In 1980, 74% of US medical schools reported the inclusion of formal course material on death and dying in their curricula.1 The majority of this literature and instruction focuses on interactions with patients who are terminally ill. A few sources have outlined, in a theoretical manner, the physician's role at the time of patient death.2-6 Although patient death contributes to physician stress,7 there is a paucity of information available concerning common physician practices and sentiments after patient death occurs.8 A clearer understanding of these practices may allow us to develop programs to alleviate physician stress, to improve emotional support for patients' families, and to improve medical education. As a first step toward developing this


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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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