Physician discussions with terminally ill patients: a cross-national comparison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A major issue in the care of terminally ill patients is communication and information provision. This paper reports the extent to which physicians in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland discuss topics relevant to end of life care with terminally ill patients and their relatives (without first informing the patient), and possible associations between physician-specific characteristics and such discussions. Response rates to the postal survey ranged from 39% to 68% (n = 10139). Physicians in most of the countries except Italy in principle, always' discuss issues related to terminal illness with their patients but not with patients' relatives without first informing the patient, unless the relatives ask. Cross-national differences remained strong after controlling for physician characteristics. The majority of physicians appeared to support the principle of patient-centred care to terminally ill patients, consistent with palliative care philosophy and with the law and/or professional guidelines in most of the countries studied.


  • Colleen Cartwright
  • Bregie D. Onwuteaka-Philipsen
  • Gail Williams
  • Karin Faisst
  • Freddy Mortier
  • Tore Nilstun
  • Michael Norup
  • Agnes van der Heide
  • Guido Miccinesi
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Medical Ethics


  • physician-patient communication, terminal illness, Europe, EURELD, end-of-life care, Australia, cross-national practices
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-303
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch