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Promise and Progress - Amen to Miracles

Promise & Progress - A Spectrum of Achievements

Amen to Miracles

Date: January 15, 2015

The Journal of Oncology Practice, June 16, 2014

A new tool developed by Kimmel Cancer Center clinicians and chaplain Rhonda Cooper helps doctors, nurses, and other caregivers talk to dying patients and their families who are praying for a miracle.  The tool, called AMEN—an acronym for affirm, meet, educate, no matter what—provides a conversational protocol caregivers may use to communicate with patients and families in this situation.  Its tenets are:  Affirm or acknowledge patients’ hope, meet or join them in their hope, continue to educate the patients and families about medical issues, and assure them that their health care team will remain with them throughout the duration of their care, “no matter what.”

A study cited by Cooper and conducted by the University of Connecticut and Georgetown University finds that the majority of adults—57 percent—randomly surveyed said they believed that “God’s intervention could save a family member” even when physicians said that further treatments would be futile.  The team developed the tool because many medical professionals are uncomfortable, even dismissive, of such beliefs, and it can affect the trust between patients and caregivers. 

“The tool can remind providers to ask, not assume, what patients in treatment are hoping for,” says Anna Ferguson, R.N., a collaborator on the AMEN tool and director of the center’s Hope Project that, like the AMEN tool, educates caregivers on ways to integrate patients’ hopes into their treatment plan.

“Our goal is to maintain trust and foster open and honest communication as the care plan is being discussed,” says Cooper, “and to help medical experts see the hope for a miracle as an opportunity to join the patient or family in their end-of-life conversation.”

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