Sitting with Silence in End-of-Life Cancer Care

February 12, 2018

(Nurse Oncology Advisor) – Modern medicine with its emphasis on cure frequently discovers itself struggling with an array of challenges in end-of-life care. Studies on the influence of compassionate silence in end-of-life care have indicated that clinicians’ focus solely on “doing” may actually be inappropriate at times and inhibit their ability to effectively address and meet the needs of the person who is terminally ill. A prominent theme was that the “do, fix, and hopefully cure” mandate in modern medicine may not be appropriate at the end of life and, in fact, may need to be balanced with the quality of being present with those who are suffering. Being “present” to patients who are nearing death therefore entails that clinicians possess a certain comfort level in terms of “sitting with the silence” and offering the “gift of presence.”

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