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Information disclosure and decision-making: the Middle East versus the Far East and the West


Objectives: to assess physicians’ and patients’ views in Saudi Arabia (KSA) towards involving the patient versus the family in the process of diagnosis disclosure and decision-making, and to compare them with views from the USA and Japan.

Design: A self-completion questionnaire (used previously to study these issues in Japan and the USA) was translated to Arabic and validated.

Participants: Physicians (n = 321) from different specialties and ranks and patients (n = 264) in a hospital or attending outpatient clinics from 6 different regions in KSA.

Results: In the case of a patient with incurable cancer, 67% of doctors and 51% of patients indicated that they would inform the patient in preference to the family of the diagnosis (p = 0.001). Assuming the family already knew, 56% of doctors and 49% of patients would tell the patient even if family objected (p NS). However, in the case of HIV infection, 59% of physicians and 81% of patients would inform the family about HIV status without the patient’s consent (p = 0.001). With regards to withholding ventilatory support, about 50% of doctors and over 60% of patients supported the use of mechanical ventilation in a patient with advanced cancer, regardless of the wishes of the patient or the family. Finally, the majority of doctors and patients (>85%) were against assisted suicide.

Conclusions: Although there was more recognition for a patient’s autonomy amongst physicians, most patients preferred a family centred model of care. Views towards information disclosure were midway between those of the USA and Japan. Distinctively, however, decisions regarding life prolonging therapy and assisted suicide were not influenced to a great extent by wishes of the patient or family, but more likely by religious beliefs.

  • Physician-patient relationship
  • truth telling
  • decision-making
  • assisted suicide

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