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Bereaved children's questions to a doctor.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2000
Issue number1
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)74-96
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This two-part study was undertaken to determine a) what questions bereaved children would like to ask a doctor; b) how a doctor responds to these questions; and c) the factors that may influence this process. The first set of data was collected by a retrospective sample of 121 questions posed by 99 children who had attended a residential grief support programme. These questions were sorted and later assigned to one of five categories, namely a) cause of death, b) life span, c) doctors, d) dead body and e) grieving feelings. The largest category identified was 63 questions (52%) relating to the cause of death. It is suggested that this partly, the result of the commonly held societal view that a doctor is the most appropriate person from whom to access this type of information. A subsequent detailed analysis of 35 more questions confirmed these findings. The second set of data was collected by observation, field-note taking, audio taping and later transcribing, the doctor responding to 35 questions posed by 24 bereaved children. A model of communication emerged where the doctor employed three phases within his response, namely a) validation, b) reflection and c) description. The significance of this model and the culture in which adults communicated acceptance and a desire to understand what the children were saying are discussed. The attributes and types of work involved for the doctor are also highlighted, particularly the emotion-focused questions, which appear more challenging than the biomedical questions. It is suggested that the doctor plays an essential role in helping a child understand 'how' and 'why' a person dies. Hence implications for practice and future research have been provided.