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Speaking Honestly with Sick and Dying Children and Adolescents

Unlocking the Silence

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 disease.

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 adolescents.

About the Authors

Dietrich Niethammer, M.D., now retired, is a widely recognized pediatric hematologist and oncologist and professor emeritus at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

Endorsements

Passionately arguing for open communication with sick and dying children, Niethammer reveals the vivid moral and imaginary lives of children and how they can be crushed by lies and evasions, however well intended. Despite the sorrow surrounding this subject, Niethammer never despairs. A book about life at the end, not the end of life.

- Robert A. Aronowitz, M.D., University of Pennsylvania

Reviews

A valuable and enlightening educational experience. Niethammer writes with authority and insight.

- Andrew R. Barnosky - JAMA
Johns Hopkins University Press
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Hardback
240 Pages
$62.00 USD
9781421404561 : speaking-honestly-with-sick-and-dying-children-and-adolescents-niethammer-schmeling-kludas-nitschke
Paperback / softback
240 Pages
$27.00 USD
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240 Pages
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