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Qual Health Res. 2002 Feb;12(2):173-93.

The discursive properties of "hope": a qualitative analysis of cancer patients' speech.

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  • 1Royal Adelaide Hospital Cancer Center, Department of Medicine, Adelaide University, Australia.


The authors of this article question the usefulness of the empirico-realist search for a definitive definition of hope. Semistructured interviews on "do-not-resuscitate" issues with 23 oncology clinic outpatients were tape-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed following grounded-theory methodology and discursive analytical methodology. Twelve patients spontaneously spoke about hope as objective or subjective, a burden or a resource. Hope represented an evaluation of empirical states of affairs or the wish for desired outcomes and was a warrant for action or an excuse for inaction. It was attributed to both patient and caregiver, to individuals or situations. Hope was present or future oriented, both vulnerable and enduring. The variety of versions of hope has implications for interactions between health care workers and patients. Recognizing a taxonomy of hope might prove more useful than searching for definitions.

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