Should culture affect practice? A comparison of prognostic discussions in consultations with immigrant versus native-born cancer patients

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Journal Article
Patient Education And Counselling, 2013, 92 (2), pp. 246 - 252
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Objective Poor prognosis is difficult to impart, particularly across a cultural divide. This study compared prognostic communication with immigrants (with and without interpreters) versus native-born patients in audio-taped oncology consultations. Methods Ten oncologists, 78 patients (31 Australian-born, 47 immigrants) and 115 family members participated. The first two consultations after diagnosis of incurable disease were audiotaped, transcribed and coded. 142 consultations were included in the analysis. Results Fifty percent of doctor and 59% of patient prognostic speech units were not interpreted or interpreted non-equivalently when an interpreter was present. Immigrant status predicted few prognostic facts, and oncologist characteristics no prognostic facts, disclosed. Oncologists were significantly less likely to convey hope to immigrants (p = 0.0004), and more likely to use medical jargon (p = 0.009) than with Australian-born patients. Incurable disease status and a limited life span were commonly acknowledged, generally with no timeframe provided. Physical issues were discussed more commonly than emotional aspects. Conclusions While culture did not appear to influence doctor speech, interpreters filtered or blocked much prognostic communication.
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