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Soc Sci Med. 2001 Aug;53(4):455-64.

Chinese seniors' perspectives on end-of-life decisions.

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  • 1Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ont., Canada.


Making end-of-life decisions is a painful and difficult process; one that can be intensified by cultural differences between physicians and their patients. The objective of this study was to examine attitudes of Chinese seniors towards end-of-life decisions. We conducted a qualitative survey in a Chinese community centre in Toronto, Canada. Face-to-face interviews, in Cantonese, were conducted with 40 Chinese seniors 65 years of age or older. Respondents based their end-of-life decision making on the following factors: hope, suffering and burden, the future, emotional harmony, the life cycle, respect for doctors, and the family. Respondents rejected advance directives. Respondents' attitudes toward end-of-life decision making can be understood through the lens of values from Confucianist, Buddhist and Taoist traditions. Health care workers can best achieve quality end-of-life care--and address the cultural differences that may arise--by focusing primarily on understanding the perspectives of patients and their families, and by continually striving for balanced and open communication at all stages of the caregiving process.

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