If your partner had terminal cancer, would you want to know? And would you want it to be the doctor—or your wife—breaking the bad news?
These are the sorts of questions that Swedish researchers tackled in a recent survey that found a surprisingly high number of men get left out of the loop until the very last moment when their spouses have incurable cancer. Some 40 percent of Swedish men, the researchers found, were either never told that their wife had terminal cancer or first heard this information during the last week of her life. However, the majority of widowers—86 percent—who responded to the survey believed that the next of kin should be told immediately. Seventy-nine percent of men were told by a physician instead of their spouse.
The gap between the respondents' preferences and reality suggests that it may behoove a man and his wife to discuss what he'd want to know—and when—long before cancer strikes. Sure, it's a morbid conversation to have, much like proactively discussing funeral preferences or a living will. But the authors of the current study cite evidence that men who aren't informed of the incurable nature of a spouse's cancer are less prepared to handle the loss and have increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Would you feel comfortable discussing this issue with your spouse? Do you think it would help in the event of a discouraging diagnosis?
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Wives: If you were dying, would you tell your husband? Our friends at BettyConfidential want to know.