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Communication Ethics 

Communication Ethics
Communication Ethics
Textbook of Palliative Care Communication

Timothy W. Kirk

, Nessa Coyle

, and Matthew Doolittle


Communication is a key mediating variable to reducing suffering and optimizing quality of life with serious illness. As such, engaging a therapeutic communication process is a core ethical obligation of palliative care providers and organizations. This chapter presents a framework for ethical communication using the concepts of sensitivity, confidentiality, empowerment, deliberation, reflection, and mutual respect. Such concepts can guide clinicians in discerning how and when to use verbal and nonverbal communication with colleagues, patients, and family members in a manner that supports the exercise of moral agency, maximizes benefit, and minimizes harm. The chapter illustrates that an excessive focus on outcomes often diverts attention away from the communication process itself, raising the risk for confrontation and stalemate. Therefore, the ethical framework emphasizes the importance of process, suggesting that communication processes are ethically significant apart from the outcomes they may produce.

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