Klin Onkol 2017; 30(5): 380-385. DOI: 10.14735/amko2017380.

Background: Pediatric oncologists are often faced with situations in which parents or guardians refuse recommended treatment for curable childhood cancer. Deciding how to proceed in such situations is an ethical dilemma. The aim of this article is to consider optimal approaches when parents are strongly against oncological treatment, potentially compromising their children’s rights for health care and to the chance for cure. Cases: In this paper, we report two cases of treatment refusal from our department and the impact of such decisions on the children themselves. Case no. 1 describes a child with retinoblastoma whose parents refused standard treatment in order to seek alternative treatment abroad. Case no. 2 describes a patient with a primary lymphoma of bone who received treatment by a court order after parental refusal. Conclusion: When parents refuse a treatment for potentially curable cancer, the medical team often focuses on the certainty of death without treatment. In the background, there is a smaller but still significant risk that – even if the treatment is eventually accepted or compelled – the child will still die from treatment-related complications or refractory disease, possibly with considerable suffering. The reasons for refusing a treatment vary. The entire medical team is tasked with trying to respectfully understand the reasoning behind the parents‘ unwillingness to accept the treatment, in order to address all possible misunderstandings and to propose solutions that could be acceptable for the parents. In some situations however, it is necessary to resolve the dilemma by legal means in order to protect the life of the child.


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