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Oman Med J. 2013 Jan;28(1):20-5. doi: 10.5001/omj.2013.05.

Breaking bad news issues: a survey among physicians.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, Qassim University, Saudi Arabia, P.O. Box 6655-51452.



The aim of this study was to explore the physicians' perspectives and practices in relation to breaking bad news (BBN) to patients.


A quantitative survey was performed in the Qassim Region from January to July 2011. A cross-sectional study was conducted using a questionnaire administered to all practicing physicians working in both hospitals and Primary Healthcare centers in the Qassim Region. Anonymity was maintained throughout. The target groups received a self-administered questionnaire with a covering letter introducing the study and explaining their rights.


A total of 458 physicians participated in the study. Physicians with higher qualifications had lower total scores of the mean in BBN skills. The majority (70%) preferred to discuss information with close relatives rather than the patients. In case of serious diseases, only 32% said that they would inform the patient's family without the patient's consent. More than 90% of our study sample did not avoid telling their patients the bad news; however, physicians working in Primary Healthcare centers were less reserved.


Although most of the participating physicians were keen to help their patients, they lacked the essential knowledge and skills for breaking bad news. Thus, they are in need of specific training in this regard.


Breaking bad news; Physician-patient communication; Saudi Arabia

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