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Hospital survey: Don’t tell patients what’s wrong

Date Posted: 2009-10-08

The Japanese trend has been to withhold information from patients as to how sick they really are, because of a stigma that death and sickness are shameful, and cause a loss of face to family members.

Okinawa’s state-owned hospitals have conducted research on what people think about explaining illnesses to patients, and found that the majority of people surveyed think now think patients should be told, but only if they ask.. They found, in fact, that many people think it’s taboo to even talk about the subject.

When respondents were queried about serious illnesses such as cancer, the answers somber. Most didn’t want to even tell a person “You have cancer”. Family members said they didn’t want their relatives told if one was found to have cancer.

The survey asked questions about hospice relaxation care, asking “Do you tell the patient you have cancer?” The majority, 54.6%, said only “if the patient wants to know.” The opposite, “No, never tell the patient,” was the answer from 14.7% of those questioned. On a more personal note, people surveyed and asked “Do you want to know if you have cancer?”, 62.2% said yes, they wanted to know.


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