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Acta Oncol. 2008;47(5):870-8. doi: 10.1080/02841860701766145.

Guilt after the loss of a husband to cancer: is there a relation with the health care provided?

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Division of Clinical Cancer Epidemiology, Department of Oncology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Goteborg, Sweden.



Feelings of guilt are common after bereavement. We investigated whether feelings of guilt after the loss of a husband to cancer are associated with the health care provided at the time close to and at the moment of death.


The study population consisted of 506 widows of men who died of prostate cancer in 1995 or of urinary bladder cancer in 1995 or 1996 at the ages 45-74 years. We collected information on the received health care at the time of the husband's death from the widows, through a postal questionnaire.


Widows who perceived that their husbands did not get enough pain relief had an increased relative risk of 1.7 (95% CI 1.1-2.8), for guilt feelings, compared to widows who felt that their husbands had adequate pain relief. If a widow considered her husband being exposed to less satisfactory care or treatment, she had an almost two-fold increased relative risk, 1.9 (95% CI 1.2-3.1), for guilt feelings after the husband's death, compared to a widow who thought that satisfactory care or treatment was provided.


Feelings of guilt after bereavement may occur in response to the perception of inadequate health care during the last months and at the actual moment of death of the significant other.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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