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AHCPR-Supported Study Notes Differences Among Ethnic Groups in Attitude Toward Diagnosis of
Press Release Date: September 14, 1995
According to a study published in the September 13, 1995 issue of
the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there are
striking "differences in the attitudes of elderly subjects from
different ethnic groups toward disclosure of the diagnosis of a
terminal illness, and toward end-of-life decision making."
The study, entitled "Ethnicity and Attitudes Toward Patient
Autonomy," surveyed 200 subjects aged 65 years and older who were
self-identified as being from each of four ethnic groups,
including European American, African American, Korean American,
or Mexican American. Researchers found that: "Korean Americans
(47%) and Mexican Americans (65%) were significantly less likely
than European Americans (87%) and African Americans (88%) to
believe that a patient should be told the diagnosis of metastatic
cancer. Korean Americans (35%) and Mexican Americans (48%) were
less likely than African Americans (63%) and European Americans
(69%) to believe that a patient should be told of a terminal
prognosis and less likely to believe that the patient should make
decisions about the use of life-supporting technology (28% and
41% versus 60% and 65%). Instead, Korean Americans and Mexican
Americans tended to believe that the family should make decisions
about the use of life support. Ethnicity was the primary factor
related to attitudes toward truth telling and patient decisionmaking."
The researchers concluded that "Korean-American and
Mexican-American subjects were more likely to hold a
model of medical decision making rather than the patient autonomy
model favored by most of the African-American and
European-American subjects. This finding suggests that physicians
ask their patients if they wish to receive information and make
decisions or if they prefer that their families handle such
Note: For details refer to Blackhall LJ, Murphy ST, Frank G, et
al. Ethnicity and Attitudes Toward Patient Autonomy. JAMA 274(10):820-825; September 9/13, 1995.
For assistance in arranging interviews or information on other
AHCPR-funded research on issues related to cost, quality and
access to health care, please contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855.