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Helping people with a learning disability face dying

David O'Driscoll discusses the importance discussing death with people who have learning disabilities.

I have been seeing a man for psychotherapy who has a serious cancer diagnosis, he has been given six to nine months to live. He knows that he has this prognosis, as he was part of the meeting with the consultant. The difficulty is, however, what is his understanding of his situation?

It is problematic to gauge as he feels fine, is physically healthy and carries on his life as if he has not had this diagnosis. His family encourage him in this thinking – not wanting him to know the timescale – nor do they talk to him about his condition, as he is a 'happy go lucky chap’, and ‘it would spoil his last few months’, and they are concerned he would become depressed. This is a view also upheld by his support staff. They do not discuss his situation with him


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