Family physicians' views on disclosure of a diagnosis of cancer and care of terminally ill patients in Croatia

Sanja Blazeković-Milaković, Ivana Matijasević, Stanislava Stojanović-Spehar, Svjetlana Supe
Psychiatria Danubina 2006, 18 (1-2): 19-29

INTRODUCTION: Family physicians have a crucial role in communication and palliative care for terminally ill patients.

AIMS: To examine family physicians' views about the disclosure of the diagnosis and information about cancer to their patients and to their families; to establish the most appropriate person to deliver the diagnosis of cancer to the patient; to examine whether family physicians cooperate with palliative care associations, and to assess their opinions about euthanasia and emotional support to dying patients.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: One hundred and thirty four family physicians participated in the study. The data was collected by questionnaire designed for this survey about cancer care.

RESULTS: The majority of respondents 96 (71.64%) delivered the cancer diagnosis to their patients sometimes, and 69 (51.5%) told the truth about the cancer diagnosis to the family without the patient's permission. The respondents 90 (70.3%) considered that the family physician was the most appropriate person to disclose the cancer diagnosis and 107 (80.5%) considered that the patients' home was the most appropriate place for terminal care. The majority of physicians 61 (45.5%) thought that they did not cooperate enough with palliative care associations. In working with terminal patients, 42 (32.1%) respondents considered communication with the patients to be particularly difficult and 122 (93.8%) thought that emotional support of family and friends was most important.

CONCLUSION: The majority of physicians deliver a diagnosis of cancer to their patients occasionally, and they also tell it to the patient's family. They considered family physician to be the most appropriate person to disclose a diagnosis of cancer and the patient's home was considered the most appropriate place for terminal care. In caring for terminally ill patients communication is considered particularly difficult, and the emotional support of family and friends is considered most important.

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