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Shared decision making in palliative cancer care: a literature review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 November 2013

C. Feuz*
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Department of Radiation Oncology, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Correspondence to: Carina Feuz, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Department of Radiation Oncology, University Health Network, University of Toronto, 610 University Avenue Rm 6-103, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 2M9. Tel: +416 946 4501×3197. Fax: +416 946 2019. E-mail:



Patients require information to make informed decisions and consent to medical treatment. Shared decision making (SDM) is a methodology that promotes a patient-centred approach to informed consent and demonstrates respect for autonomy


The purpose of this paper is to critically review the legal and ethical issues relevant to Canadian and UK informed consent and SDM practices and how these processes relate to current palliative care practices, with a particular emphasis on radiation therapy.


A review of the English literature from 2003 to 2013 was performed using the databases PubMed (NML), OVID Medline and Google Scholar.

Results and Conclusions

The literature identifies that palliative cancer patients desire the opportunity to be involved with decision-making discussions, which has shown to increase knowledge and result in better health-related outcomes. However, ethical and legal issues regarding the practicality of including this patient population in SDM discussions raises questions about validity of consent. For SDM to be considered a valid methodology to obtain informed consent, open and honest communication between the patient and multidisciplinary team is essential. Treatment options for palliative cancer patients are often complex and SDM allows healthcare professionals and patients to exchange information and negotiate feasible treatment options based on medical expertise and patient preferences.

Legal frameworks have defined current standards of practice for various healthcare professions, including radiation therapy. Radiation therapists, as members of the multidisciplinary team, are currently key contributors in providing information to patients regarding the radiotherapy process. Individuals working within advanced practice roles have the ability to develop skills once considered to be within medical domains and have begun to incorporate the delegated act of obtaining informed consent into practice which has shown to increase professional autonomy, accountability and improves patient-centred care.

Literature Reviews
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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