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Doctor to speak on tough talk with patients

Health talks: Christy Simpson

An overseas doctor is in Bermuda to discuss how healthcare professionals should handle tough topics with their patients.

Christy Simpson, head of the bioethics department at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine in Canada, will give a series of talks as part of Bermuda Hospitals Board’s annual Ethics Awareness Week.

Dr Simpson and the BHB ethics committee said they would concentrate on the difficult conversations healthcare workers faced.

Sita Ingram, ethics education committee chairwoman and clinical director of allied health services at the BHB, explained: “Healthcare providers are here to diagnose and treat illnesses, but it’s also our duty to make sure our patients understand the reality of their diagnosis and the risks and benefits of choosing one treatment over another.

“We need to take their values and beliefs into account, along with their loved ones’ wishes.” Ms Ingram said the conversations could often be emotional, especially when a prognosis is not good or when medical treatment was expected to be difficult.

She added: “The situation can be even tougher when patients aren’t able to make decisions for themselves.”

Dr Simpson said that healthcare professionals needed to support patients and their loved ones through the decision-making process.

She added: “There are steps we can take to prepare for these kinds of conversations and to deal with any issues that arise.

“There are also ethical considerations, along with tools that can help when making a decision is particularly difficult or there are differing views.”

Dr Simpson will lead lectures for local healthcare providers and take part in workshops.

Details are available on the BHB website at bermudahospitals.bm