When Patients and Their Families Feel Like Hostages to Health Care

Berry LL, Danaher TS, Beckham D, Awdish RLA, Mate KS. When patients and their families feel like hostages to health care. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2017 Sept;92(9):1373–1381.

A power imbalance often still exists in the patient-provider relationship, particularly when high-stakes health decisions have to be made. This article explores this dynamic, likening it to “hostage bargaining syndrome” — that is, the patient behaves as if negotiating for their health from a position of fear and confusion. To counteract this behavior, the authors assert that clinicians must be sensitive to the power imbalance and “mindfully pursue shared decision making by helping patients trust that it is safe to communicate their concerns and priorities.”

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