Qu’en est-il de l’annonce du diagnostic de schizophrénie aujourd’hui en France ? - EHESP - École des hautes études en santé publique Access content directly
Journal Articles L'Encéphale Year : 2017

Are schizophrenic patients being told their diagnosis today in France?

Qu’en est-il de l’annonce du diagnostic de schizophrénie aujourd’hui en France ?


INTRODUCTION: The progressive shifts in the legal and social contexts, along with major changes in information seeking habits with the development of the Internet, have placed patients' information at the core of medical practice. This has to be applied to the psychiatric fields as well, and to questions about how schizophrenic patients are being told their diagnosis nowadays in France. METHODS: This paper is a national and international literature review about schizophrenia diagnosis disclosure practices, from 1972 to 2014, using French and English languages and various psychology and medical databases. The used key words were "diagnosis", "disclosure", "communication", "breaking bad news", "information", "schizophrenia" and "psychosis". RESULTS: Proportions of diagnosis announcement: our results show that the proportion of psychiatrists delivering schizophrenia diagnosis to their patients varies between countries. Although we must acknowledge that the questionnaires and samples are diverse, we have found that psychiatrists are in general less prone to deliver diagnosis information in France (from 13,5% to 39% given the studies), Germany (28%), Italy (30%), and Japan (30%), than in Anglo-Saxon countries. Thus, 70% of the psychiatrists in North America and 56% in Australia claim that they disclose their diagnosis to schizophrenic patients. In the United-Kingdom, a study targeting psychotic patients themselves has shown that 47% of them had been told their diagnosis by their doctor. Even in the countries where the proportion of diagnosis disclosure is the highest, there remains a substantial difference with other mental illnesses such as affective or anxiety disorders, which are almost always labeled as such in the information communicated to the patient (90% in North America). Diagnostic information about schizophrenia continues therefore to appear problematic for health professionals, which can seem a paradox given the recent social and legal evolutions, the therapeutic progress, the proved benefits of disclosure on compliance and therapeutic alliance, and the fact that numerous studies have shown that a majority of patients already know their diagnosis having discovered it on the Internet or by reading their treatments' notice. Reasons alleged for not disclosing diagnosis: the reasons alleged by psychiatrists for not disclosing diagnosis are various, including fear of aggravating the stigma and the emotional state of the patient, fear of giving a wrong diagnosis, fear of suicidal behavior, risk of misunderstanding, low level of patient's insight, absence of therapeutic advantage, or absence of request from the patient. Evolution of the French position about diagnosis disclosure: The publication of the relatively large study of Baylé et al. in 1999, as well as the patients' rights evolutions, has led to a debate among psychiatrists about the reasons alleged in France for not disclosing diagnosis. Among other explanations, it appeared that the theoretical reference of the psychiatrist plays a role, a psychoanalytic practice leading to increased reluctance in breaking the bad news. Thus, the psychiatrist's view of the disease, in terms of etiology and prognosis, is important as the diagnosis could become accusing if the psychiatrist believes the family environment played a role, or harmful if he has a pessimistic conception of prognosis. The question of stigma: among other reasons alleged by psychiatrists for not announcing the diagnosis, the fear of causing an increased stigma is frequently reported by professionals. In France, stigma about schizophrenia is high, not only among the general population but also among health practitioners. Even if the context has evolved during the past 30 years and the therapeutic efficiency has improved, French representations of schizophrenia remain often tinted with catastrophism and should be modified. Benefits of diagnosis disclosure: however, the benefits of disclosing diagnosis have been constantly proved in France as in other environments. Several studies have shown that patients knowing their diagnosis were likely to develop a better compliance and a stronger therapeutic alliance with their doctor. No aggravation of symptoms, suicidal risk or anxiety has been linked to the diagnosis disclosure. On the contrary, the relief of being able to put some words on symptoms, better recognize them and anticipate them, and be part of a group of patients sharing the same symptomatology has been described by patients. Furthermore, disclosing a schizophrenia diagnosis can be essential to the psychotherapeutic project, in the sense that it places the patient into an active role towards the disease and the care plan. Last but not least, the relatives can benefit from the disclosure as well and build a partnership with health professionals about medical care. Existing recommendations: in the French context, apart from individual recommendations produced by a few authors in the literature, there are no official specific recommendations about how to disclose a difficult diagnosis in the psychiatric field; only recommendations concerning severe chronic somatic disease are available. The complexity of the schizophrenia diagnosis disclosure has led some researchers - especially in North America and Australia - to adapt and use in the context of schizophrenia protocols, recommendations and even communication skills training programs that have been developed in oncology or in the field of severe chronic somatic disease. DISCUSSION: For the situation to evolve in France, tools able to measure patients' consent - including consent to hear the bad news - ability could be used. The question of how much information and what kind of information the patients really wish should therefore be explored in deep. Also, we have seen that schizophrenia representations should be modified in the general public understanding as well as in the professional environment. Families should be more included in the reflection about diagnosis announcement, as psycho-education programs have shown their efficiency and usefulness for both patients and relatives. Finally, in order to overcome some of the difficulties related to breaking the bad news about a schizophrenia diagnosis, developing the existing Anglo-Saxon models and recommendations in France, where only very few protocols exist, could allow a positive evolution in clinical practice and help to set a therapeutic and partnering approach of diagnosis disclosure. However, in order to better understand the situation in France regarding schizophrenia diagnosis disclosure, the present state of clinical practice still remains to be analyzed precisely, as the last study on a relatively large sample was made only in 1999. Thus, the obvious limits of our study lie in the fact that most available surveys in France are not recent enough to have taken into account legal and social evolutions. Also, the studies that we used for this paper use different methodologies, in the majority focus solely on health professionals, and they are not representative enough in terms of size or sample to inform about the present state of the practice. CONCLUSION: As a conclusion, having stressed the lack of recent data about schizophrenia diagnosis disclosure in France, we suggest a new study using validated tools on a representative sample and taking into account both perceptions of psychiatrist and patient. As has been the case for other severe pathologies, we also suggest that a consensus conference take place on the subject of schizophrenia diagnostic information in order to elaborate guidelines to support this difficult disclosure.
Le bien-fondé de l’annonce du diagnostic de schizophrénie a longtemps fait débat. Cependant, depuis l’aube des années 2000, différentes évolutions du contexte social et législatif, doublées de changements majeurs dans les pratiques d’accès à l’information – notamment grâce au développement d’Internet – ont semblé devoir militer pour une annonce quasi-systématique. Notre recherche tente d’évaluer où en sont les pratiques en la matière, à travers une revue de littérature nationale et internationale. Nos résultats montrent qu’il existe de nombreuses informations sur l’annonce du diagnostic au plan international, révélant sur ce point une spécificité de la pathologie schizophrénique, qui reste moins souvent annoncée que d’autres maladies, et avec plus de difficulté. La complexité de cette annonce a conduit certaines équipes à s’inspirer de travaux effectués dans le cadre d’autres maladies graves pour établir des recommandations, des protocoles et même des programmes de formation, qui sont en cours d’expérimentation. Sur le plan national, nous avons noté une absence d’informations récentes, les dernières données disponibles ayant établi une plus grande réticence à informer les patients de leur diagnostic que dans le monde anglo-saxon, malgré des bénéfices prouvés de l’annonce diagnostique, notamment sur le plan de l’observance et de l’alliance thérapeutique. Dans ce contexte, il nous semblerait utile de mettre en place une enquête actualisée sur les pratiques d’annonce auprès d’un échantillon représentatif, ainsi qu’une conférence de consensus à ce sujet pour dégager des recommandations et harmoniser les pratiques.
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Dates and versions

hal-02469632 , version 1 (06-02-2020)



M. Villani, Viviane Kovess-Masféty. Qu’en est-il de l’annonce du diagnostic de schizophrénie aujourd’hui en France ?. L'Encéphale, 2017, 43 (2), pp.160-169. ⟨10.1016/j.encep.2016.01.011⟩. ⟨hal-02469632⟩
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