Requests for Non-Disclosure of Poor Prognoses to Patients

Kristina Reynolds

  • Abstract

    For patients who are given information about a life-limiting diagnosis and poor prognosis, it can be very distressing to hear words such as ‘terminal’ and ‘end of life’. These words are also upsetting for patients’ family members/loved ones. In some instances, the family or surrogate decision-makers may ask that health professionals withhold the prognosis and distressing terminology by requesting non-disclosure of this health information to their loved one. These types of situations can be stressful to the healthcare professional and ethically problematic. Healthcare professionals may feel torn between doing what they perceive as being in the best interests of the patient and complying with the family’s request for non-disclosure. This article explores the distress that being told about terminal prognoses causes patients and family members/loved ones and highlights some of the reasons for families requesting non-disclosure of terminal diagnosis. Cultural considerations for such requests, effects of non-disclosure on patients and ways in which to resolve the conflict are also discussed. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Contributors

    Kristina Reynolds


    Correct at article publish date

    Terre Haute, IN, and Masters of Science in Nursing Graduate Student, Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, IN. Email:

    Original publishing information

    • Publisher: St Christopher's Hospice
    • Publish date: 01/01/2013
    • Volume: 3
    • Issue: 4

    Permissions: © 2015, Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to

  • Downloads

Full article access

To download and read the full article you need to log in

Not yet registered? Registration is free and easy.

Register online now

St Christopher's education events

Clinical Skills

Relevant to palliative and end of life care

Find out more