Telling the Bad News: do the Elderly Want to Know Their Diagnoses and Participate in Medical Decision Making?
Sara Carmel, Alon Lazar
Sociology of Health Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, and Dept. of Behavioral Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheba
In view of reported changes in western countries in the preferred model of doctor-patient relations, we evaluated the wishes of elderly persons for open doctor-patient communication with regard to terminal disease. Data was collected in 1994 from 987 elderly persons (70+) by structured interviews. Most of respondents wanted open communication and wished to be involved in medical decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment. However, only a minority tell their physicians and/or family members of their wishes. This suggests that most of the elderly expect physicians to be the first to initiate discussions of these issues. The results also indicate that among the elderly, those more educated, less religious, and those living in Israel longer, are more likely to want open communication with their physicians. This is explained by the relationship of these characteristics with the dominant cultural values of this group, and its acceptable models of relations in other areas of life.