Recommending unfunded innovative cancer therapies: Ethical vs. clinical perspectives among oncologists on a public healthcare system—A mixed-methods study

Osnat Bashkin, Keren Dopelt, Noam Asna, Nadav Davidovitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Over the past decade, there has been a growing development of innovative technologies to treat cancer. Many of these technologies are expensive and not funded by health funds. The present study examined physicians’ perceptions of the ethical and clinical aspects of the recommendation and use of unfunded technologies for cancer treatment. This mixed-methods study surveyed 127 oncologists regarding their perceptions toward using unfunded innovative cancer treatment technologies, followed by in-depth interviews with 16 oncologists. Most respondents believed that patients should be offered all treatment alternatives, regardless of their financial situation. However, 59% indicated that they often face dilemmas regarding recommending new unfunded treatments to patients with financial difficulties and without private health insurance. Over a third (38%) stated that they felt uncomfortable discussing the cost of treatment with patients. A predictive model found that physicians facing patients whose medical condition worsened due to an inability to access new treatments, and who expressed the opinion that physicians can assist in locating funding for patients who cannot afford treatments, were more likely to recommend unfunded innovative therapies to patients (F = 5.22, R2 = 0.15, p < 0.001). Subsequent in-depth interviews revealed four key themes: economic considerations in choosing therapy, patient–physician communication, the public healthcare fund, and discussion of treatment costs. Physicians feel a professional commitment to offer patients the best medical care and a moral duty to discuss costs and minimize patients’ financial difficulty. There is a need for careful and balanced use of innovative life-prolonging technologies while putting patients at the center of discourse on this complex and controversial issue. It is essential to develop a psychosocial support program for physicians and patients dealing with ethical and psychosocial dilemmas and to set guidelines for oncologists to conduct a comprehensive and collaborative physician–patient discourse regarding all aspects of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2902-2913
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Oncology
Volume28
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Ethical dilemma
  • Medical cost-benefit
  • Unfunded cancer therapies

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