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Legal and Ethical Issues Relating to Use of Complementary Therapies in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Cohen, Michael H. JD, MBA

Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology: March 2006 - Volume 28 - Issue 3 - pp 190-193
doi: 10.1097/01.mph.0000210401.28685.57
Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Pediatricians increasingly are asked to advise pediatric patients and their families concerning integration into conventional care (including hematology and oncology) of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies such as chiropractic, massage therapy, and herbal medicine. Inclusion of CAM therapies in pediatric oncology and hematology—as in any medical subspecialty—is not itself “unethical,” clinically inadvisable, or legally risky; the danger comes from over-reliance on one or more CAM therapies (particularly those with evidence of danger and/or paltry evidence of success) to the exclusion of conventional care that is curative and imminently necessary. Pediatricians can help address potential malpractice liability issues by evaluating the level of clinical risk, engaging the patient in shared decision making and documenting this in the medical record, continuing to monitor conventionally, and being prepared to intervene conventionally when medically required.

Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, Law Offices, 1811 NW 51 St., Suite 1289, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309

Received for publication January 27, 2006; accepted January 27, 2006

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.