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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 10/22/99
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Teaching Future Doctors How to Handle Death and Dying

Cincinnati—A course of study on "Death and Dying" is part of the Introduction to Clinical Practice classes at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine. The course consists of three three-hour sessions at one week intervals (three Tuesdays), starting in the first week of the first year of medical school classes.

Colin Macpherson, MD, professor emeritus of pathology and laboratory medicine instructs the class and says, "I ask them if they are comfortable with the idea that the 180 people in the room are all going to die, sooner or later, and that all of the students will also die." He says, "The silence resulting from this statement is striking, and moving."

Each day there is a general discussion for the whole class followed by small group discussions for about one hour. The grade is based on attendance and participation in the small group discussions plus completing the questionnaire and writing an essay about some aspect of death, dying, or grieving. Macpherson says, "We confirmed that only 17 students had ever discussed death and grieving with their families." Some essays from the class have been published in Must I think about death? Now? and the second edition will be published before the end of this year.

It has also been a very successful course in alerting the students to the humanitarian angle of patient care. According to Macpherson, "It has also been helpful in indicating to them that if one of their fellow students has had a loss of any sort, it is more important to listen sympathetically than learn what to say."

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