Healthcare News & Insights

Lessons learned: Johns Hopkins shooting highlights hidden danger


The recent fatal shooting at the famed hospital reminds us just how fragile a patient’s — and their families’ — state of mind may be when a doctor or other care provider has to deliver bad news. 

In the incident last week, Paul “Warren” Pardus of Arlington, Virginia, shot Dr. David B. Cohen in the abdomen after Cohen had updated Pardus on his mother’s declining condition. Pardus than barricaded himself in his mother’s room and eventually killed her before committing suicide. Cohen, an orthopedic and spinal surgeon at Johns Hopkins, is in good condition and expected to fully recover.

Obviously, Pardus’ reaction was beyond extreme, but doctors and other health professionals can never be sure how family members — or patients themselves — will take poor prognoses or death notifications. Aside from the stress of receiving the bad news, a complex brew of emotions and family dynamics can make an already high-stakes conversation even more difficult for everyone.

Any number of factors can play a role, including family members feeling guilty for encouraging a course of treatment that didn’t work. And they may have their own mental health issues that are unknown to the health care professional.

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