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Advance care planning discussions in advanced cancer: Analysis of dialogues between patients and care planning mediators

  • Kelly A. Barnes (a1), Cate A. Barlow (a1), Jane Harrington (a1), Karon Ornadel (a1), Adrian Tookman (a1), Michael King (a2) and Louise Jones (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 25 February 2011

Advance care planning (ACP) provides patients with an opportunity to consider, discuss, and plan their future care with health professionals. Numerous policy documents recommend that ACP should be available to all with life-limiting illness.


Forty patients with recurrent progressive cancer completed one or more ACP discussions with a trained planning mediator using a standardized topic guide. Fifty-two interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed for qualitative thematic content.


Most patients had not spoken extensively to health professionals or close persons about the future. Their concerns related to experiencing distressing symptoms or worrying how family members would cope. Some patients wished for more accurate information and were unaware of their options for care. Many felt it was doctors' responsibility to initiate such discussions, but perceived that their doctors were reluctant to do so. However, some patients felt that the time was not yet right for these conversations.

Significance of results:

This article reports on the recorded content of ACP discussions. The extent to which patients want to engage in ACP is variable, and support and training are needed for health professionals to initiate such discussions. Our findings do not fully support the current United Kingdom policy of introducing ACP early in life-threatening disease.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Louise Jones, Department of Mental Health Sciences, 2nd Floor, UCL Medical School, Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill Street, London, NW3 2PF, United Kingdom. E-mail:
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