I write a regular article for our local news paper and this was this week's contribution. Please post your comments at the bottom of this post.
I found out this week that Dr. Robert Buckman renowned oncologist, comedian and Star columnist died in his sleep on Sunday while flying to Toronto from London, England. He was 63. In his 39-year career as a cancer physician, Buckman wrote 14 books, including an “unauthorized autobiography” called Not Dead Yet, and produced over 45 humour-driven medical information videos. I was listening to a radio clip of him this week as he in the early 1990’s wrote a book called How To Break Bad News: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. It struck me as a little odd that a book like this would have needed to be written at all. I would have guessed that this type of information would have been given in medical school. I am sure things have changed in today’s education. His book turned into a seminar that was often presented. I was so interested in what he had to say because as a Pastor, there are times I have needed to bring bad news. When doing so I was so unsure I was doing it in a right manner. Dr. Buckman was interviewed by Stuart Foxman in July of 2007. Here is what was said by Dr. Buckman; “Though some doctors might be more gifted at it than others, nobody likes breaking bad news. The temperature in the room gets uncomfortable, so there’s a tendency to cut and run, or use the professional approach, and immediately talk about treatment. How can you be a supportive messenger when the message is absolutely dreadful? That’s the challenge and the answer starts with SPIKES. You can sum it up this way: SETTING: Pick a private location. PERCEPTION: Find out how the patient views the medical situation. INVITATION: Ask whether the patient wants to know. KNOWLEDGE: Warn before dropping bad news. EMPATHY: Respond to the patient’s emotions. STRATEGY/SUMMARY: Once they know, include patients in treatment decisions. There are two basic messages, Number one, before you tell, ask. In other words, find out where they are. Number two, every emotion that arises and erupts into the room must be acknowledged” (find the article here). Really great advice.
I am glad that I have one more tool in my kit as a pastor. When bringing bad news, I can point people to the Lord. How comforting is His Word in times of great challenge and trial. How healing prayer can be when we join hands and talk to the Creator of all things about our situation. I have been reading through the book of Matthew and over and over people would get bad news and then turn to God for supernatural help with their problem. How many times you read the words that people were healed and their bad news became good news with Christ’s help. For example in Matthew Chapter 20: 32- 34, two blind men were crying out to Jesus because they were blind. The scriptures record; When Jesus heard them; he stopped and called, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” they said, “we want to see!” Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.” Wonderful! With the Lord there can be great hope when bad news comes.
We can face difficult things because God is with us in it! May I ask you, are you serving the Lord? Please do not wait till bad news comes before you turn to Him for help. He wants to be your savior not only in this life but the in the life to come.