Breaking bad news and personality assessment Academic Article uri icon


  • Breaking bad news to seriously ill patients is an especially difficult and important part of patient education and counseling. Guidelines for breaking bad news have been previously presented, but this is the first report to address the personality of the patient in deciding how to break had news. A case study of a patient diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is presented. A psychiatric consultation assisted in assessing the patient's personality and thus preparing the medical staff for breaking the bad news to him. The patient was assessed as having an obsessive-compulsive personality, and consequently the staff was instructed to concentrate on facts and not on feelings when breaking the bad news to him. The patient coped adaptively with this procedure, as did the staff. This case report illustrates that personality assessment may be of benefit in breaking bad news to seriously ill patients. It remains to be seen whether this procedure can be successfully generalized to other patients and settings as well as to other domains of patient education and counseling, and if so--whether this will also prove to be cost-effective.

publication date

  • October 1, 2000