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Personal values and cancer treatment refusal
  1. Marli Huijer,
  2. Evert van Leeuwen
  1. Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands


    This pilot study explores the reasons patients have for refusing chemotherapy, and the ways oncologists respond to them. Our hypothesis, generated from interviews with patients and oncologists, is that an ethical approach that views a refusal as an autonomous choice, in which patients are informed about the pros and cons of treatment and have to decide by weighing them, is not sufficient. A different ethical approach is needed to deal with the various evaluations that play a role in treatment refusal. If patients forgo further treatment, while curative or palliative methods are available, there is no perspective from which to integrate the weighing of pros and cons of treatment and the preferences and values of individual cancer patients. A discrepancy thus results as regards what “good reasons” are, evoking misunderstandings or even breaking off communication. Suggestions are given for follow up research.

    • Ethics
    • oncology
    • treatment refusal

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    • Marli Huijer, MD, MPh, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Philosophy, Rijks University, Groningen, the Netherlands. Evert van Leeuwen, MPh, PhD, is Professor in Philosophy and Medical Ethics, the Faculty of Medicine, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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