Research Article

Whom do dying patients tell?

Br Med J 1980; 281 doi: (Published 15 November 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;281:1328
  1. J Hinton


    Eighty married patients dying of cancer were assessed for their overt awareness of their condition. Of the 62 who discussed the possibility of dying, 22 had spoken of this to hospital staff, 43 to their husband or wife, and 53 to the interviewer. Those more certain of dying were more likely to speak about it. Patients previously considered "nervous" people more often showed their awareness, but current anxiety had no consistent effect. More overt sharing of awareness tended to happen in marriages considered average or poor by the spouse than in some closer marital partnerships. The patients' communication of awareness to wife or husband was consistently better when the spouse favoured telling the patient. Patients also tended to disclose their awareness of dying more frequently to those staff prepared to discuss the matter. The findings have implications for the care of the dying.