Talking openly with sick and dying children about their illness
is always difficult and often agonizing. It is honesty, however,
that these children deserve and need. Dietrich Niethammer, a
prominent pediatric oncologist, explains why it is so important to
speak frankly and respectfully to young patients about their
The question at the heart of this book is how children and
adolescents feel and think about death and dying. Dr. Niethammer
thoroughly examines the literature on the topic, arguing that
children and adolescents not only are capable of discussing their
illness but benefit from doing so. Puzzled why it took medical
practitioners so long to accept truth-telling in their care of
dying children, Niethammer traces the development of this notion
from the early twentieth-century work of Sigmund Freud to the
discomfort surrounding it still today.
Severely sick children and adolescents think about the
consequences of their disease, whether adults discuss it with them
or not. When adults remain silent, they do a disservice to the
children. Dr. Niethammer urges doctors to practice not in silence
and denial but in open communication with ill children, giving the
children an opportunity to express their fears and anxieties and to
cope with their disease on their own terms.
Dr. Niethammer's compelling personal experiences combined with
the latest research make this a compassionate and invaluable
resource for physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers,
parents--for all who care for sick and dying children and
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