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Japanese Patients Want Greater Say in Health Care

Study finds paternalistic attitude of doctors may be outdated

WEDNESDAY, March 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Patients in Japan want to take an more active role in their medical care, a sign that the paternalistic attitudes of Japanese doctors is outdated, says a study in the March 1 issue of BMC Family Practice.

The Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine study included 134 outpatients who were given a short description of possible symptoms for three conditions: pneumonia, gangrene and cancer.

The volunteers were also presented with hypothetical diagnoses, treatment options and a prognosis and then interviewed to gauge their desire to take part in decisions about their medical care.

The study found that 71 percent of the volunteers said they would want to make treatment decisions in collaboration with their doctor and 16 percent said they would want their family or doctor to make these decisions on their behalf. Thirty percent said they would want the final say about any treatment.

Currently, many doctors in Japan don't provide medical information to patients for fear the patients will misunderstand the information and become anxious. It's also common for doctors in Japan to first inform patients' families about bad medical news and ask the families to decide whether the patient should be told about their prognosis.

The study authors say their findings show there is no clear evidence that Japanese patients prefer a more passive role in their medical care than do patients in Western countries.

More information

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers information about how patients can help prevent medical errors.

SOURCE: BioMed Central Ltd., news release, March 1, 2004
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