Journal of Professional Nursing

Am I Dying Nurse? 

Gilliam White, PhD, SCM, RM, MTD, BEd, Dip.Soc.Sci. (Psych), MA (Hons), Senior Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, Massey University, Albany Campus
Huey-Rong Su, BSc, MN (Taiwan), Postgraduate student, School of Health Sciences, Massey University, Albany Campus 

Reference:  White, G. & Huey-Rong, S. (2000). Am I Dying Nurse? Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 15(1), 33-40.


Tensions exist with regard to truth-telling about dying.  Attitudes and opinions of doctors and nurses impact upon patients and their families.  While traditionally doctors have assumed the role of telling patients and/or families, the nurse practitioner often has a closer relationship with the patient and may be the most appropriate person to answer the question “Am I dying?”  If nurses accept they have a moral obligation to tell the truth then it is imperative that clinicians, researchers, educators, and the consumers of health services, deliberate on what truth-telling s.  Cultural implications of both-truth telling and dying are little understood in New Zealand.  The multi-cultural nature of New Zealand provides an opportunity for nurse researchers to address the many issues raised by the question “Am I dying, nurse”. 

Dying, truth-telling, cultural aspects, ethics 

When you care for a critically ill person and the person asks “am I dying?” the ensuing silence becomes painful.  Should you, as a nurse, respond?  What should you say or do?  What if you say the wrong thing?  Many questions flash across your mind as the patient waits for an answer.  “Am I dying, nurse?” is one question that many nurses dread and try to avoid.  However, avoidance can lead to suspicion and loneliness for the patient who is terminally ill and guilt, frustration and dissatisfaction for the nurse (McGarr, 1986).

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