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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 174-180

Responding to family requests for nondisclosure: The impact of oncologists' cultural background

1 Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
2 School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Mahati Chittem
ODF Campus, Yeddumailaram, Hyderabad 502 205, Andhra Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-1482.140836

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Context: Nondisclosure of cancer diagnosis is common in many Eastern countries. Consequently, immigrant families often approach oncologists with requests for nondisclosure in Western countries. Aims: To explore differences in the attitudes and practices of Western-born and nonWestern born oncologists in Australia when faced with a nondisclosure request. Settings and Design: Using a cross-sectional design, oncologists were interviewed over the telephone. Methods: Using the snowball method, 14 Australian (Western = 9, non-Western = 5) oncologists were recruited. Oncologists participated in a semi-structured interview exploring their experiences of, and response to, a request for nondisclosure, and their perceptions of how their cultural background influenced these attitudes and responses. Analysis: The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results: Six main themes emerged from the study: (1) Barriers to truthful communication, (2) an ethical and moral dilemma, (3) high costs of nondisclosure, (4) cultural influences on interpretation and understanding of requests for nondisclosure, (5) emotional impact of bad news on patients, families and oncologists, and (6) truthful disclosure as a gentle balancing act. Conclusions: All oncologists felt that the family request for nondisclosure was difficult, with many cultural and emotional nuances to take into consideration. Some immigrant Australian oncologists who had a similar cultural background as the patient/family, felt they could better understand the desire for nondisclosure. Irrespective of their cultural background, all oncologists acknowledged that breaking bad news had to be done in a gentle, gradual manner. The study suggests a need to develop a culturally sensitive cancer communication model.

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