Working with doctors Working for patients

End of life care: Explaining the clinical issues

28. You should explore treatment options with patients (and with those close to them if appropriate) focusing on the goals of care, and explaining the likely benefits, burdens and risks. You should bear in mind that patients and those close to them may not always have a clear or realistic understanding of the diagnosis or the benefits, burdens and risks of a treatment option. This is particularly the case for treatments such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and clinically assisted nutrition and hydration, as the public’s knowledge about the clinical complexities may be limited.

29. Patients and those close to them may also draw incorrect conclusions from the terminology used by healthcare staff about the risks or expected outcomes of these treatments. You should explain the treatment options in a way that they can understand, explaining any medical or other technical terminology that you use.

30. You should be open about any underlying uncertainties, as this helps to build trust and reduce the scope for later conflict. You can find detailed advice on how to communicate clearly and effectively with patients and those close to them, especially when explaining the side effects or other risks associated with treatments, in Consent: patients and doctors making decisions together (paragraphs 7-12, 18-25 and 28-36).