Problematic Integration: Racial Discordance in End-of-Life Decision Making

Darlene K. Drummond, Satveer Kaur-Gill, Genevra F. Murray, Karen E. Schifferdecker, Rebecca Butcher, Amanda N. Perry, Gabriel A. Brooks, Nirav S. Kapadia, Amber E. Barnato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe racially discordant oncology encounters involving EOL decision-making. Fifty-eight provider interviews were content analyzed using the tenets of problematic integration theory. We found EOL discussions between non-Black providers and their Black patients were often complex and anxiety-inducing. That anxiety consisted of (1) ontological uncertainty in which providers characterized the nature of Black patients as distrustful, especially in the context of clinical trials; (2) ontological and epistemological uncertainty in which provider intercultural incompetency and perceived lack of patient health literacy were normalized and intertwined with provider assumptions about patients’ religion and support systems; (3) epistemological uncertainty as ambivalence in which providers’ feelings conflicted when deciding whether to speak with family members they perceived as lacking health literacy; (4) divergence in which the provider advised palliative care while the family desired surgery or cancer-directed medical treatment; and (5) impossibility when an ontological uncertainty stance of Black distrust was seen as natural by providers and therefore impossible to change. Some communication strategies used were indirect stereotyping, negotiating, asking a series of value questions, blame-guilt framing, and avoidance. We concluded that provider perceptions of Black distrust, religion, and social support influenced their ability to communicate effectively with patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2730-2741
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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