Justifications of physicians' choice of action - Attitudes among the general public, GPs, and oncologists in Sweden

S Bremberg, Tore Nilstun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (SciVal)


Objective. To compare choice of actions and justifying reasons among the general public, GPs and oncologists. Design. A postal questionnaire using four vignettes: a healthy patient reluctant to quit smoking and one demanding an X-ray, a pulmonary cancer patient reluctant to quit smoking and one demanding immunotherapy. Subjects. A random sample of the general public (n=1000), GPs (n=200), and oncologists (n=200). Main outcome measures. The respondents' choice of how the physician should act (general public)/would act (physicians), and, with reference to their choice of action, their justifying reasons. Results. A majority answered that the physician should/would bring up the question about smoking cessation with the reluctant patient, justified by promotion of medical benefit and protection from harm. With reference to the reluctant cancer patient every second oncologist and every third GP would not mention smoking cessation, justified by respect for self-determination and enhancement of the relationship. Facing the patient demanding a new X-ray the general public was more in favour while the physicians rejected it. One-third of the general public answered that the seriously ill patient's demand for immunotherapy should be granted and referred to respect for self-determination and enhanced relationship. A majority of the physicians rejected such a demand, justified by promotion of a fair distribution of resources. Conclusion. The fear of infringing the patient's right to self-determination and harming the relationship is exaggerated by physicians. They are mostly expected to bring up smoking cessation with a reluctant patient. How to manage demanding patients is more controversial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-108
JournalScandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy


  • questionnaire
  • medical benefit
  • justice
  • autonomy
  • demanding
  • reluctant


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