Author(s): Yewoubdar Beyene, PhD

Date Authored: September 1, 1992

Doctor and nurse talking to an Ethiopian patient lying in bed
Photo by Lucy Perry/Hamlin Fistula Relief and Aid Fund Australia (cc license).

EthnoMed has been granted permission from the Western Journal of Medicine to place the following article from their journal onto our web site. This material may be protected by Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S. Code).

We are grateful to the Western Journal of Medicine for their cooperation and willingness to make this information available to the EthnoMed audience.


The strong value in American medical practice placed on the disclosure of terminal illness conflicts with the cultural beliefs of many recent refugees and immigrants to the United States, who often consider frank disclosure inappropriate and insensitive. What a terminally ill person wants to hear and how it is told are embedded in culture. For Ethiopians, “bad news” should be told to a family member or close friend of the patient who will divulge information to the patient at appropriate times and places and in a culturally approved and recognized manner. Being sensitive to patients’ worldviews may reduce the frustration and conflict experienced by both refugees and American physicians

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