What we don’t talk about when we talk about cancer

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In modern China, doctors often do not inform their cancer patients of their diagnosis, for fear of worsening a patient’s health condition by imposing a mental burden, and being held responsible for any negative reaction to the diagnosis.

The Financial Times (paywall) reports that in contemporary China, it’s common for doctors to withhold a diagnosis from cancer patients. According to a recent survey of Chinese physicians, doctors are inclined to first disclose a cancer diagnosis to the patient’s family members, believing that for a cancer patient, “worry caused by the diagnosis could make the condition worse.” In addition, they are afraid of being held responsible for any negative reaction to the diagnosis. The practice, however, is in many cases against patients’ wishes, as other research indicates that more than 70 percent of patients actually want to be informed of any diagnosis.