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Grief, anger and despair in relatives of severely brain injured patients: Responding without pathologising

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Publication details

JournalClinical Rehabilitation
DatePublished - Jul 2014
Issue number7
Number of pages5
Pages (from-to)627-631
Original languageEnglish


The training and expertise of healthcare professionals in diagnosing and treating pathology can mean that every situation is treated as an instance of illness or abnormality requiring treatment. This medicalised perspective is often evident in clinical approaches to family members of people with prolonged disorders of consciousness. This editorial was stimulated by reviewing an article (final version now published in this issue) concerning the distress of families with severely brain injured relatives, and by reading the larger body of literature to which that article contributes. It was also prompted by the recent publication of national clinical guidelines in the UK about the management of prolonged disorders of consciousness. In this editorial we highlight the depth and range of emotional reactions commonly experienced by families with a severely brain injured relative. We suggest that clinicians should understand such emotions as normal responses to a terrible situation, and consider the ways in which clinical practice can be adapted to avoid contributing to family trauma.

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