Bad News


It’s the moment that many patients and their families dread: a doctor gives the sort of diagnosis that turns life upside down. Decisive for how well people cope with bad news like this is the manner in which the doctor delivers it. If doctors lack empathy, understanding and the right words, the results can be devastating. Some patients even decide against further treatment. Studies show that nearly 40 per cent of all patients in Germany feel themselves abandoned by doctors to deal with their worries and fears alone.

For over a year, we’ve investigated the German health system to find out what goes wrong in one of the most important exchanges between patients and doctors – and what can be done to improve things. We talked with those involved: patients, doctors, medical students, ethicists and pastoral care workers. And the fact is that the pace of work in hospitals leaves too little time for satisfactory doctor-patient conversations. And then there’s the remuneration system, which rewards diagnosis and treatment far better than what’s often dismissed as “talk medicine”. But, above all, most doctors have never learnt how to deliver bad news.

Written & directed by: Ilka aus der Mark // Camera: Michael Kern, Christian Eichenauer, Steven Rudi Altig, Ilhan Coskun // Film editor: Maximilian Narkovic // Sound: Steven Rudi Altig, Alexander Czart, Julian Kiesche, Ralf Weber // Music: Markus Aust // Sound mix: Alexander Weuffen // Sound editor: Ayse Remmler // Narrator: Philipp Schepmann // Production assistant: Isabell Straub // Procution manager: Katja Sträter, Jorge Bogalho (WDR) // Producer: Tanja Winkler (Längengrad), Renate Werner (WDR) // Executive producer: Thomas Weidenbach, Sarah Zierul // Commissioning editor: Christiane Mausbach


  • YEAR 2020
  • LENGTH 45 minutes