How Doctors Tell Patients They’re Dying | Being Mortal | FRONTLINE

(siren wailing) NARRATOR: When serious illnesses
take us to hospitals, we look to doctors for answers. But what happens
when there are no more cures? – Do you want
to call her daughter? NARRATOR: Zara Cooper
is an emergency surgeon with palliative care training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
in Boston. She frequently must deal
with patients surprised that they’re nearing
the end of life. – It’s certain that
everybody’s gonna die. There’s no certainty as to when. It’s not clear from the CT scan
what’s going on… And frequently,
as an emergency surgeon, I’m meeting somebody
for the first time, and they have no idea that they
could die from their disease. Whether that’s because nobody’s
told them or they’re in denial, I don’t know,
but it’s always a surprise. NARRATOR: Clyde Earle
has been undergoing treatment for advanced cancer for a year. He’s now suffering
with intense pain. The prognosis is not good. – Well, you’re in good hands
here with Dr. Cooper. – I know. NARRATOR: Dr. Cooper
wants to talk to Mr. Earle and his wife Audrey
about what comes next. – So the rumor has it you guys
are newlyweds, is that right? – Yeah, in March. – That’s great. Now, what happened before you
came in to the hospital? – One morning, I had so much
pain, I could not take it. I was in deep trouble
with pain. – About 3:30 in the morning. – What I discovered was that
he and his wife had the expectation that
he had many more months. – So let me ask you, what do we expect to happen
after you leave the hospital? – We’re going fishing. – Okay. – We’re going up
to the house in Maine. And then after Maine, we’ll go back
to the house in Florida. – Right. – Now, has anybody
talked to you about hospice or having hospice nurses
take care of you? Is that part of the plan? – When and if we need it,
I know the procedure. – Yeah. When I said “hospice,” it was
as if I was talking to somebody who only thought that hospice
would be necessary when he was just about to die. My impression was that
that was the goal, was to get him to hospice. I think the lesson learned
is that you have to ask. You can’t make those assumptions
because oftentimes, patients and their families aren’t at all
where you think they are and aren’t at all
where you think they should be. NARRATOR: But Zara Cooper had
at least started a conversation about the end of life. – We are here to take care
of you, okay? – Okay. – All right. NARRATOR: As Clyde Earle’s
condition worsens, Dr. Cooper brought in
Kathy Selvaggi, a senior palliative care
physician whose expertise is
in end-of-life care. She would now take up
the hospice discussion. – She and I had a conversation
about goals of care, and… – When Dr. Selvaggi came down
to the ICU to meet them, I said, you know, “You’ve got
a lot of work to do.” She said, “I know.” – It was really important
to take his wife aside and talk about
what I was seeing. – Hi. – How are you, Audrey? – Let’s not even ask questions
like that. – I know, I know. Clyde, good morning. – (moaning) – It’s been… like this. (whispering) I don’t like it. – I know you don’t. – I don’t like it at all. – It is a process, and I think, you know,
it is very hard to come to the realization
that you’re dying. These are really important
conversations that should not be waiting
the last week of someone’s life. I’m not sure I’m gonna
get him back to Maine. – We’re not. Let’s face the truth. – I don’t think we are. – No. – I think he’s gonna be here
with us. – Yeah, I know he is. I guess I was in my own world,
thinking if they could fix. In my heart, though,
I knew better. I knew what was ahead. And I didn’t share it with him. – It’s those moments
when people show that they want
to talk about it. Once somebody gives you
that kind of opening, in palliative care, we’re
trained to take that opening and to identify that as a moment
where you can help somebody, whereas I think the natural
inclination is to say, “We’re gonna get him better
and you’re gonna get him home,” because it makes you
feel better. – I love you. – I love you. – I love you, honey.


  1. Never forget that we are all going to die… I have been close to a premature death and comfort was found in my life from the euthanasia choice. I get it's a bit controversial but cmon it's a right, right?

  2. I think when you get that old, reality of death become more real. It helps, that's the positive side. This life is temporary, be ready for after life. Be prepared with your deeds & sins.

  3. Everyone always says to get a great job so you can be prepared for retirement. But for what? Work 50 years of your life to prepare for your last 20 years you might not even get? I need to live a more fulfilling life now. Take chances, start businesses. I would never want to know when I am going to die but it’s not fair that not every single human or animal doesn’t get to live a full life. Death is such a sad thing specially when you watch someone suffer. I’ll never forget watching my grandmother die a slow painful death. She was the most selfless person on this earth. She was the neighborhood mother that always took in every child and would do anything for anyone before her self. It’s hard to see anyone pass away specially a such a great person like my grandmother was. May she and everyone Rest In Peace

  4. Did u notice guys before the procedure he was ok speaking fluently after his treatment is look at his end thanks to pharmaceutical that kills patients wake up guys go natural to live a full and healthy life
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  5. That was a tough 5 minutes…the speed of the process is what gets me…seems like the od on morphine..if im dying and i wanna go to maine load me up with crank and write me my scrips and fuck off

  6. I was with my dad the last few days of his life, the nurse gave him morphine that morning, and he just sort of faded until he stopped breathing in the afternoon. The funeral home came and I helped load him in the gurney and that was it.

  7. There are three main things I wouldn't be able to handle in a hospital. Telling a family bad news, hospice care, and watching a patient pass away in surgery. I'm sad the Earle's passed away, but they're in a much better place now being lovebirds forever <3

  8. My mom is a doctor… she told me, when she was learning about cancer, her teacher wanted to show her class how to tell someone they were going to die.
    The class was inside a room, with a window that seems a mirror outside (forgot the name sorry) and watched the teacher going to tell the patient… She told me she expected that he would say something, like "sorry"…

    The patient asked if he was ok. He hugged him for a long time and the patient just cried, knowing that he was going to pass away…

  9. Yeah my grandpa died when summer holidays started..😭only thing that has stayed in my mind is that we were going to greece, and when we were meeting him he told us to buy him some booze on the way back.. we didnt make it in time😭 in the middle of the holiday in greece we had to go back home to his funerals. Last weeks were sad as hell. Sorry im bad at english

  10. Fuck it….I would have told Clyde that they were going to take care of his pain and he'd soon be going fishing…..why torture someone with the news they were about to die? i'd let him live in a world of delusion and just let him go to sleep and die….

  11. My old friend is in the last stage's of his life , I just want him to stop suffering , sooner rather than later , but that brings its own feelings of guilt . god bless you Bill.

  12. If I get that far let me say goodbyes and give me a lethal shot of propofol and remover the O2 mask. No need to let me linger in pain for 5 days. Don't have to call it su i cide. Just speed it and make a shortcut for the last few days.

  13. I wish I could pass away with a woman like that above my bed.This new generation is tainted and ugly.Loyalty has faded due to social media and status

  14. I cry for this familie there pain en suffering. I am from the netherlands we have have the rigt to choose to end oure life by euthanasie.

  15. my nan unfortunately passed away in new zealand in her hospital bed at home at 10:30 pm on 14.6.18 [ june 14th 2019 ] . i didnt get to go to her funeral or see her at her last moments tho i did see her last year in april 🥺 please spend every moment with your loved ones carefully. its been extremely rough for my dad and his siblings since my korou 61 passed in 2011 then my aunty 31 passed in 2013 and my nan 63 2018 ahhhh he was talking about mothers day and he got really sad saying "well i dont have a mother now on earth to celebrate mothers day with anymore." and i always see him on his fb saying "morning dad, mum and sister etc." 🥺🥺

  16. It's so hard to have to make that choice for someone I went threw that with my mother and I felt so guilty for it. But I hope she dont hurt anymore

  17. My friend was dying.. man broke my heart like no other. I never lost anyone so that really had me depressed. He told us he had to leave the hospital or he would die. He would say that but his mind wasn’t right after all he had been through… well they listened to his wishes and bring him home thinking it was over in days.. but nope a year later he’s healthy ❤️ I just stare at him. He always ask “ why you looking at me” I just say because you are healthy and alive I love you. My best friend is alive that’s more than what I could ever ask God for I prayed many nights.

  18. Jesus, slip them the juice and let then die painlessly and peacefully. We treat animals better. There is a point FOR ALL OF US where it's time ti go.

  19. a slow code to China….circling the drain….don't read the book, go watch the movie….EOF soon to come- the final discharge up…..ready for admission to the Eternal Care Unit…..

  20. Can someone please 🙏. My mom has a sickness. The doctors said that if she doesn't cure fast she can have cancer. Then maybe die…. She's strong but plis pray 🙏 for her. She's at home right now.

  21. Its so sad about what happened to the first couple, watching this made me cry. I couldnt think about what id do if i lost my husband that ive been with since i was 14 yrs old.

  22. Life sucks. It’s like a big tease. Something so beautiful yet it is all destined to go away, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

  23. I found out yesterday that a dear family member of mine was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and a brain tumor. This vid hit hard for me

  24. Well like redding ca hospital mercy told me. Well the old guys going to kick the bucket you need to sighn this. Catholics are jerks. No compassion and no Christian morals. For a rc hospital they shure were evil to a Korean war vet……..

  25. Poor man, it opens up wounds that I still feel for my family who are no longer here and my two younger sisters are no longer here. I was TOTALLY AMAZED how kind, sincere and sympathetic those doctors were in this film. That was a FAR CRY from the reality that I faced with my youngest sister; when medical staff were SCREAMING AT ME, BULLYING ME AND THREATENING ME with security and police when my sister was dying and then the staff started LAUGHING and I resent them for that, in fact I HATE the NHS and I am NO LONGER their patient any more after the DESPICABLE, HORRIBLE WAY in which they treated my dear sweet beloved youngest sister when she was dying. It was APPALLING.

  26. I always had this idea in my head that if I was ever diagnosed with terminal cancer I would spend my last days in a hospital bed sipping whisky out a flask and reminiscing with friends about the good old days, saying my goodbyes to love ones etc but seeing the state Clyde was in was truly sobering (no pun intended) rest in peace Mr and Mrs Earle 💚

  27. Life when you haven't got no one go for and no one's I love it's very hard so didn't me to understand why could have been me instead of mother I think in my mind. It's very hard to say goodbye one's your love and time is he's getting on foremost. I know my time will be next this year or next year I'll be gone from this world we're all living it we all go through hard times and you can't help thinking of life and the ones you love has already died away from you is very difficult brought me to stand and I cannot get over it.

  28. I watched another in the hospital as South Australia Perth. And the daughters so they can't do anything how come she was like having a tube stuck into a bladder and it was bleeding with model of blood soon as a bit on the doctor didn't get a job right when you put the TV so sometimes I feel like taking your in the own hands and deal with the doctor. I can't do anything now oh no I don't want I want the I want police
    to do the job right way and put the doctors under vestigation because if I tried to Laura my own hands it comes under doctors negative of patients who died before me mother did as 5 just before mum died so I want the doctor on the vestigation if you can't do that I'm wanting hanged and I want his licence taken away from him sorry contractors and more?

  29. it's too late to do anything now because everyone is think that can do everything perfect but they don't look after the Potions I just keep staring of people it's wrong. How about doing a job right or the community can do the orange job on the doctors and I cannot take the Laura my own hands because if I do are we going to go I'm going to prison for a long time that's why I asked at community for help and no one knows the stuff about anyone else by the Celts I've been waiting for a house to her since I came out of jail in 2002 cos shooting a person up in Words state of Campbelltown 2560 New South Wales Australia.

  30. I got my polar for some reason unknown I was in Liverpool Hospital and you South Wales and he mobile phone was stolen from the Hospital. No one wants to do anything about it so what goes around comes around but those who wait steal from a patient you will get hurt so bloody bad is police can't do the job. Leave Lee doctors can't do their job look after the patients so anyone works in the system to not have criminal records and they have change their names when they do their job in the system.

  31. The problem is doctors beat around the bush. Just come out and tell the truth. Did they mention dying or death in this video to the patient? No they speak in euphemisms.

  32. People think death in terminal illness situations will happen later than sooner. That's what our brains WANT to think. My dad's passing was like that.

  33. Okay my heart first dropped when they said they were gonna go fishing in Maine. Also it didn't explain how doctors tell their patients about death

  34. My ex wife is an oncologist, well trained in palliative care, and she has to deal with this everyday, she encounters patients in their twenties as well as much older too of course. At the end of the day we need to realize that death is part of life, we cannot overlook that fact.

  35. To some degree it's easier for the person it's happening to. For the loved ones around that bed it's hope for one more day, one more hour please one more minute anything but what is to happen

  36. I know these jobs pay well but I could not imagine having to deal with death and peoples pain everyday I would become so depressed then again I guess some people can handle that

  37. Am totally cool with this….reality is we all will die. Really soon….im mean what is another 40 or 50 yrs anyway…..millions have gone before and millions will go after….so in the bigger scheme of things this is just how it is….this is life and death

  38. Wish hospitals here would and the drs they don't here and all u do is suffer each day then down to. Each moment how things need to change

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