A Systematic Review of Cultural Preferences for Receiving Medical “Bad News” in the United States


According to the dominant models of medical ethics in the United States and many Western countries, physician disclosure of information such as diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis is considered an essential precondition for patient informed consent. While being consistent with the principle of patient autonomy stressed in many Western healthcare systems, full disclosure—particularly of life-threatening diagnoses and poor prognoses—is inconsistent with the cultural values of many ethnic communities within the United States. A systematic review of research examining cultural preferences for disclosure of medical “bad news” was conducted. Results suggested that cultural preferences are more heterogeneous than has often been portrayed. Particularly when communicating with patients and families from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds, health care professionals should ask about preferences for receiving medical information and making treatment decisions.

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Larkin, C. and Searight, H. (2014) A Systematic Review of Cultural Preferences for Receiving Medical “Bad News” in the United States. Health, 6, 2162-2173. doi: 10.4236/health.2014.616251.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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