Anger in palliative care: a clinical approach

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Anger in patients and families is a common problem in the care of persons with advanced disease. Whereas it is widely accepted that anger may be a justifiable reaction to significant illness and loss, it frequently creates difficulties for the doctors involved in care. In particular, there is often a personal impact on the doctor at whom anger is directed. This paper examines results of qualitative research with palliative care workers in the context of the broader published literature and the authors’ clinical experiences. The ability to interact effectively with angry patients is a skill that is often learned with experience and is extremely useful in both transforming the patients’ reaction into a more creative emotion and in developing a therapeutic relationship. Despite conscientious efforts, however, a few patients continue to be angry. A practical approach to anger, useful for the clinician directly involved in care, is outlined along with some strategies to adopt in the face of persistent anger.

Keywords: anger; family; hostility; palliative care

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Palliative Care Service 2: Departments of 2Medical Oncology 3: Medicine, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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