Disarmed complaints: unpacking satisfaction with end-of-life care

Soc Sci Med. 2003 Oct;57(8):1375-85. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(02)00512-9.


Difficult health care encounters often do not translate into expressions of dissatisfaction with care. This paper focuses on the 'non-expression' of dissatisfaction with care in the accounts of 12 people in Canada who provided care to a relative or friend who died of breast cancer. The analysis foregrounded in this paper began from the observation that as difficult health care experiences were elaborated, speakers located health professionals' actions in relation to various situational factors, including the fact of a (cancer) death and conditions of constraint in the health system. Set alongside these two realities, expressions of dissatisfaction tended to be disarmed. Results of this study suggest that the cost of articulating dissatisfaction with care is high where the cared-for person has died, and the perceived value of focusing on difficult experiences is low. Further, respondents in this study took the specificity of the situation and the setting into account in formulating beliefs about the care outcomes for which health professionals could be held responsible. When conditions in the health system and the disease process of advanced cancer were positioned in talk as 'ultimate limits' on health professionals' actions, perceived lapses in care were excused.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Canada
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Terminal Care / psychology*