Ethical issues in communication of diagnosis and end-of-life decision-making process in some of the Romanian Roma communities

Med Health Care Philos. 2013 Aug;16(3):483-97. doi: 10.1007/s11019-012-9425-5.


Medical communication in Western-oriented countries is dominated by concepts of shared decision-making and patient autonomy. In interactions with Roma patients, these behavioral patterns rarely seem to be achieved because the culture and ethnicity have often been shown as barriers in establishing an effective and satisfying doctor-patient relationship. The study aims to explore the Roma's beliefs and experiences related to autonomy and decision-making process in the case of a disease with poor prognosis. Forty-eight Roma people from two Romanian counties participated in semi-structured interviews, conducted by a research team from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Iasi. Participants were recruited among the chronically ill patients and caregivers. The Roma community opposes informing the terminal patients about their condition, the "silence conspiracy" being widely practiced. The family fully undertakes the right of decision making, thus minimizing the patient's autonomy. We identified ethical dilemmas concerning autonomy, lack of patients' real decision-making power, and paternalistic attitudes exerted firstly by the family and, on demand, by the physician. Instead, the Roma patient benefits from a very active support network, being accompanied at the hospital by numerous relatives. The patient's right to make autonomous decisions promoted in the Western countries and stipulated by the Romanian law has diminished value in the Roma community. For the Roma, the understanding of dignity is not simply individual and personal, but it is closely related to their cultural particularities. Ignoring their cultural values could create conflicts between healthcare providers and community.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease / ethnology
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Communication*
  • Culture
  • Decision Making*
  • Family / ethnology
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Roma* / ethnology
  • Roma* / psychology
  • Romania
  • Social Support
  • Terminal Care / ethics*
  • Terminal Care / psychology
  • Young Adult