In order to determine which considerations healthcare professionals use in decision-making about treatment for inpatients with end-stage cancer, we observed 110 discussions at multidisciplinary meetings at two oncology departments. The discussions concerned 74 patients. Thirty-three of the 110 discussions concerned potentially life-prolonging or life-shortening treatments. The most important decision-making considerations were chance of improvement, patient's treatment wishes, amount of suffering, and the chance of therapy being successful. Discussions resulted in 6 decisions that might shorten life, 10 decisions that might prolong life, and 23 postponements of decisions because of lack of information. These observations confirm that medical interventions with a possible life-prolonging or life-shortening effect are a frequently discussed issue in medical decision-making for end-stage cancer patients in The Netherlands. Before making a decision, healthcare professionals gather extensive information about what gain is to be expected from an intervention. When healthcare professionals establish that a decision would be medically appropriate, the patient's wish will often be an important consideration.

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Journal of Pain and Symptom Management
Department of Medical Oncology

van Leeuwen, A.F, Voogt, E, Visser, A, van der Rijt, C.C.D, & van der Heide, A. (2004). Considerations of healthcare professionals in medical decision-making about treatment for clinical end-stage cancer patients. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 28(4), 351–355. doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2004.01.005