Communication between physicians and surviving spouses following patient deaths

Susan W. Tolle, Paul B. Bascom, David H. Hickam, John A. Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The authors evaluated the perceptions and adjustments of surviving spouses following patient deaths. Of 128 married patients dying in a university hospital in 1983, the surviving spouses of 105 (82%) were personally interviewed a year after the death. The physicians' perspectives were recorded through chart review. Half of all spouses had had no subsequent contact with the physicians who had cared for the deceased, and 55% of spouses still had unanswered questions regarding the death a year later. Survivors of unexpected deaths were found to be at high risk for poor subsequent adjustment. Spouses with poorer adjustments consulted their own physicians more frequently, and used more alcohol and tranquilizers. The results identify areas where improvement is needed in communication with surviving spouses after patients' deaths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-314
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1986


  • adjustment, psychological
  • autopsy
  • bereavement
  • death
  • death of spouse
  • education, medical
  • ethics, medical
  • grief
  • physician-patient relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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