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José Miguel Carrasco and Carlos Centeno, researchers of the ATLANTES program of the Institute for Culture and Society

What message does the Spanish media convey about palliative care?


Thu, 04 Feb 2016 13:48:00 +0000 Published in The Blog of the European Association of Palliative Care

What comes to people's minds when they hear about palliative care? What does society think about end-of-life care? These are just two of the questions we ask ourselves at the ATLANTES Program: Human Dignity, Advanced Disease and Palliative Care of the University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain). We know that ignorance and lack of recognition are one of the barriers to development of palliative care services (1), so one of our lines of research is related to the 'messages' linked to palliative care. We explore the factors that contribute to the construction of the social perception about palliative care, working together professionals from the fields of Health Sciences and Social Sciences.

The media are one of the main agents of socialization and generation of public opinion (2), and palliative care frequently appears in the media in its different formats (current news, interviews, reports, etc.). Because of its great influence on people, we set out to explore and describe ideas and messages circulating about palliative care in the Spanish media.

After exploring 8 newspapers, 5 magazines, 5 television channels and 4 radio stations, we found that an important part of the references to palliative care in the Spanish press are linked to political issues, health organization and management or social discussion . In addition, they appear in opinion articles dealing with issues related to death with dignity, euthanasia, assisted suicide, legislative proposals on the end of life, etc. These articles have a strong ideological content.

However, when they appear in specific reports on palliative care, mainly on radio and television, a more informative and pedagogical perspective predominates. When testimonials from patients, family members or healthcare professionals are included in the appearances, the human component, quality of life and holistic care are emphasized, returning the protagonism to the patients and to medicine.

Our work sample shows how the presence of palliative care in the media does not guarantee the transmission of messages related to the benefits it can bring to patients, their environment and the general population. Ideologically and politically charged messages can overshadow those that are informative or that reflect the reality of palliative care.

To better understand social perceptions of palliative care, the influence of the media on people should not be underestimated. Knowing who says what about palliative care, and how they say it, will allow us to design actions aimed at promote messages that generate an image more in line with their internship and their contributions to patients and society.

This post makes reference letter to a longer article , "What message do Spanish average convey about palliative care?", published by José Miguel Carrasco and Carlos Centeno in the January/February 2016 issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care (vol. 23.1).

Read the complete article in the European Journal of Palliative Care