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The ethics of communication in cancer and palliative care 

The ethics of communication in cancer and palliative care

Chapter:
The ethics of communication in cancer and palliative care
Author(s):

Laura A. Siminoff

and Maria D. Thomson

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198736134.003.0005
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date: 29 May 2017

Our knowledge and understanding of bioethics is informed by cancer communication research, particularly around the informed consent process and participation in clinical trials. This chapter provides an overview of several ethical theories used to guide bioethics, including principlism, casuistry, and virtue ethics. With these in mind, the informed consent process and the importance of quality communication is described. Despite many patients preferring a style of communication that is more participatory in nature, physicians still struggle with how much and what kind of information to share regarding clinical trials. In the context of palliative care, surrogate decision-making adds an additional layer of complexity to this process. Further, many patients still endorse the ‘therapeutic misconception’, meaning they believe experimental treatments are superior to standard treatments. The communication models of paternalism, the fully informed model, and shared decision-making are described, with the goal to provide patients with clear, unbiased information to inform decision-making.

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