Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 14, Issue 12, pp 1246–1251 | Cite as

A narrative account of the impact of positive thinking on discussions about death and dying

  • Catherine McGrathEmail author
  • Kathleen Montgomery
  • Karolyn White
  • Ian H. Kerridge
Original Article


Goals of work

The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of autologous stem cell transplant recipients (ASCT) and those who care for them.

Materials and methods

This was a qualitative prospective, longitudinal study. Ten patients who were about to have ASCT and nine carers were recruited to the study. Interviews were to be conducted at regular intervals six times over 2 years. The narratives of two widowed carers were analysed using Grounded Theory and read for themes on positive thinking and death.

Main results

Positive thinking has a range of meanings, and its use can have a range of consequences. It can either be a useful coping strategy or can interfere with important conversations and planning about the end of life, and subsequently add to the distress of a grieving partner.


It is important for patients, their partners and their health professionals to be able to discuss potential adverse consequences of illness, including death, without being hindered by the obligation to be positive or optimistic.


Autologous stem cell transplant Positive thinking Death Carers 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine McGrath
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kathleen Montgomery
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karolyn White
    • 1
  • Ian H. Kerridge
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in MedicineUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  3. 3.Haematology DepartmentWestmead HospitalSydneyAustralia

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