The Italian society for palliative care, Sicp, have conducted a survey on the close relations of 1,271 patients who have recently died of cancer. They found that 63 per cent of the patients had been unaware of their diagnosis and only 13 per cent had been informed that their illness was incurable.

The president of Sicp, Furia Zucco, said that it was very worrying that in an age of advanced communications, cancer patients in Italy were not being given correct information. It seems, however, that doctors often have a problem with the families of patients who do not want their relations to be told the truth.