Phraseology : Do’s and Don’ts

What not to say What to say
“I know exactly how you feel.”

Sweeping statements that are not grounded in personal or professional experiences are hard to believe.

“My past experience with many patients in your situation has taught me that you must be in distress right now.”

“I can imagine how upset you must be.”

“You have failed chemotherapy.”

“You have failed the radiation therapy.”

This implies that it is the patient’s fault that the therapies are not working.

“Unfortunately, the __________ chemotherapy / radiotherapy does not seem to be working very well for you.”
“There is nothing else we can do.” “Looks like the ________ is not working very well. However, you can be sure that we will do everything in our power to make sure that you won’t suffer.”
“There is nothing more that can be done. I am going to refer you to hospice.” “Doctor: As we discussed during your last clinic visit, it looks like the ________ treatment we tried is not working. In addition, you are having a lot of side effects as well. So we have to stop the ________medication.

Patient: What do we do next, doc?

Doctor: At this time, I do not have other viable medications that I can offer to you”

Patient: …..

Doctor: Meantime, you are having a lot of pain and other problematic symptoms. So, I would like to refer you to hospice. Hospice professionals have a lot of expertise in treating symptoms and increasing comfort and quality of life. They will help you by managing your ________________ (pain, nausea, etc).


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