American oncology and the discourse on hope

Cult Med Psychiatry. 1990 Mar;14(1):59-79. doi: 10.1007/BF00046704.


From the perspective of medical anthropology and comparative research, American oncology appears as a unique variant of international biomedical culture, particularly when contrasted with oncological practice in societies such as Japan and Italy. Based on interviews with 51 oncologists in Harvard teaching hospitals, this paper argues that American oncological practice draws on distinctive cultural meanings associated with "hope" and is infused with popular notions about the relationship between psyche and soma, the progressive efficacy of biotechnical interventions, truth-telling, and the nature of the physician-patient relationship.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sick Role*
  • Truth Disclosure
  • United States