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Patients with terminal illness and their healthcare providers preferred a dosed and gradual process of truth-telling

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R Deschepper

Dr R Deschepper, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium;;


What are the attitudes of patients with terminal illness and their healthcare providers about truth-telling? What are perceived barriers to full information exchange?


Qualitative pilot study.


4 palliative home care centres in Belgium.


17 patients >18 years of age who had advanced illness (cancer), life expectancy of about 3 months, and had been duly informed of their diagnosis and prognosis; 8 relatives of patients; and 29 healthcare providers (14 general practitioners [GPs], 10 nurses, 4 specialists, and 1 psychologist).


Patients (and their relatives) participated in individual interviews; 11 second interviews were held. Healthcare providers participated in 3 focus groups, which focused on GP–nurse relations, GP–specialist relations, and multidisciplinary cooperation. Interviews and focus groups were audiotaped and transcribed. Analysis was informed by grounded theory and included an iterative process of coding emerging themes and constant comparison.


Attitudes of patients towards truth-telling. Patient preferences varied about when and how they wanted to be informed. Most patients preferred information to be …

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  • Source of funding: Belgian Science Policy and Research Council of Vrije Universiteit Brussel.