Discussing prognosis and the end of life with patients with advanced cancer or COPD: A qualitative study

Catherine Owusuaa*, Liza G.G. van Lent, Adriaan van 't Spijker, Carin C.D. van der Rijt, Agnes van der Heide

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objectives To explore patients' experiences and recommendations for discussions about their prognosis and end of life with their physicians. Methods Patients with advanced cancer or advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were enrolled in qualitative interviews, which were analyzed with a phenomenological and thematic approach. Results During interviews with fourteen patients (median age 64 years), we identified the following themes for discussion about prognosis and the end of life: topics discussed, the timing, the setting, physician-patient relationship, responsibilities for clinicians, and recommendations. Patients preferred the physician to initiate such discussion, but wanted to decide about its continuation and content. The discussions were facilitated by an established physician- patient relationship or attendance of relatives. Patients with cancer had had discussions about prognosis at rather clear-cut moments of deterioration than patients with COPD. Patients with COPD did not consider end-of-life discussions a responsibility of the pulmonologist. Patients recommended an understandable message, involvement of relatives or other clinicians, sufficient time, and sensitive non-verbal communication. Conclusions Patients appreciated open, sensitive, and negotiable discussions about prognosis and the end of life. Practice implications Patients' recommendations could be used for communication training. Possible differences in the need for such discussions between patients with cancer or COPD warrant further research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0274201
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9 September
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2022

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Publisher Copyright: © 2022 Owusuaa et al.


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