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Narrative ethics in the field of oncology

Lossignol, Dominique

doi: 10.1097/CCO.0000000000000085
SUPPORTIVE CARE: Edited by Jean A. Klastersky

Purpose of review To evaluate the application of narrative within medical practice. Illness like cancer constitutes a biographical disruption that occurs several times during the disease, from diagnosis to complications and treatments. This review analyzes the interest of narrative ethics in medicine with a focus on cancer.

Recent findings The field of narrative ethics in medicine has emerged from a confluence of humanities, contemporary narratology, literature and social sciences. Although there is a growing literature on this topic, little has been written on an oncology setting. This article is more a personal consideration on the subject than a classical review of the literature.

Summary The advent of bioethics has given considerable insight into the practice of medicine, and it would be inconceivable to return to a paternalistic practice that ignores the will of the patient. Like procedural ethics of discussion, and in complement with principlism, narrative ethics promotes constructive communication between patients and caregivers.

Institut Jules Bordet, Brussels, Belgium

Correspondence to Dominique Lossignol, Associate Professor and Department Head, Institut Jules Bordet, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. Tel: +32 2 541 33 32; e-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.