Bioethics Blogs

It’s the Little Things That Matter

by Courtney Jarboe, Bioethics Program Student

“It’s not good news.

In a small exam room, we heard these words as my sister’s tears began to fall. No one wants to hear that you have breast cancer. Beyond the discussions of treatment options, however, there are a number of issues that clinicians need to consider. The following are recommendations based on my personal experience with my sister’s diagnosis.

1. A Folder

At the test result meeting, my sister received several medical record documents, along with various resources, pamphlets, journals, and business cards. However, there was no folder to house all of this. As we approached the close of the appointment, juggling the paperwork I ended up having to ask the physician assistant for a folder. Why is this a problem? First, these are important documents. The documents should be kept organized and together in one place. Keeping things together was not necessarily on the top of my sister’s list. By simply providing a folder, the clinicians would decrease the likelihood of her losing important information.

More important, most of the pamphlets and resources had ‘Breast Cancer this… Breast Cancer that…” on the covers. Often this was in big, bold headers.  What if she isn’t ready to brand herself in pink moments after receiving such devastating news? Does she want everyone in the waiting room to know her diagnosis as she walks out of the clinic? Does she want have her children come across these items accidentally before she is ready to share? By keeping these items in a folder, this gave my sister at least some degree of privacy about her results and diagnosis.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.