Breaking the news in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Other Motor Neuron Disord. 2004 Dec;5(4):195-201. doi: 10.1080/14660820310017326.


Diagnosis communication is a mainstay of the patient-physician relationship and in ALS represents the beginning of the treatment. In Europe, the diagnosis is now communicated to most patients, but with some differences from north to south. Communication is the basis of the patient's autonomy. When adequately informed, patients are able to consider their preferences about life-extending interventions. However, this discussion is sometimes entertained too late. Both the style and the context of this discussion have profound impact on patient satisfaction. The content of the communication should include all relevant information about the disease and should be performed honestly while preserving hope. Collusion with relatives can create difficulties in the relationship with a patient and isolate them from their family. Diagnostic communication is an ongoing process and should form part of every follow-up visit. Communication with the dying patient is often reinforced by non-verbal messages, acknowledgements of patients' emotions, and by listening. Written material may increase satisfaction of patients and their relatives, but should never substitute for face-to-face discussion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations* / ethics
  • Truth Disclosure* / ethics