Cancer Ethics

“Medical ethics is integral to oncology care. When I ran ethics rounds at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, I used to say that every single oncology patient faced at least three ethical dilemmas. Informed consent is one. Do patients really understand what they are signing? There’s typically a dilemma about allocating resources for treatment because these are very expensive therapies and many of them put a lot of financial pressure on families. And for many patients there’s the dilemma of facing end-of-life care, as there will be for all of us....”

-- Ezekiel J. Emanuel (2011 Interview)


Cancer patients have been the paradigm cases in advance care planning. Indeed, progress in end-of-life care and palliative care was initially greatest in cancer-care settings. In recognition of the special nature of cancer care, the medical sub-specialty oncology was established; similarly, special resources for cancer ethics are increasingly needed. 

The care of cancer patients raises distinctive ethical issues. Cancer care typically interweaves both treatment and research, raising questions about perceptions of risk, valid consent and refusal, researcher objectivity, challenges regarding therapeutic and research roles, and the allocation of scarce resources. 

The University of Miami Ethics Programs has begun a special project in collaboration with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to identify, develop and share resources in ethics and oncology, including clinical ethics, research ethics and public policy. 

These Web pages contains links to University of Miami Ethics Programs resources relevant to cancer care as well as ethics guidance of interest to clinicians, researchers, and patients. 

For more information or to suggest additions, please contact Ken Goodman