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  1. Blacklaws, Helen MN, MNurs(NP), RN, NP
  2. Veysey, Heather RN
  3. Skinner, Virginia MNH, BHScN, RN, CM
  4. Reid, Rachel Sheather PhD, BSc(hons)
  5. Hawken, Glenn MBChB, BHB, FRACP
  6. Veysey, Martin MD, MRCP, FRACP


Hepatitis C virus is estimated to affect 170 million people worldwide. Infection can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. Hepatitis C is unique among chronic illnesses, in that potentially curative treatment is available. Therapy is of prolonged duration and associated with multiple physiological and psychological side effects. These side effects have the potential to impact not only the individual receiving therapy but also their family and the day-to-day functioning of the family unit.


This paper describes data and findings obtained from a family impact study instigated to explore the repercussions of interferon treatment for chronic hepatitis C on family life, from both the perspectives of individuals who had received treatment and their family members. An exploratory study was conducted using semi-structured focus groups.


Findings reveal the treatment impacted on physical, emotional, relational, and financial domains. The major themes identified were resilience, loss, hardship, anger and irritability, and secrecy. The side-effect profile of therapy exerted significant and previously unforeseen impacts on family relationships, both negatively and positively. Treatment receivers tended to view their experiences as having more adverse impact, while family members, although affected, demonstrated considerable resilience and coping.