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Oncologists communicating with patients about assisted dying

Selby, Debbiea,b; Bean, Sallya,c

Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care: January 2, 2019 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000411

Purpose of review Across all jurisdictions in which assisted dying is legally permissible, cancer is the primary reported underlying diagnosis. Therefore, oncologists are likely to be asked about assisted dying and should be equipped to respond to inquiries or requests for assisted dying. Because Medical Assistance in Dying was legalized in Canada in 2016, it is a relatively new end-of-life practice and has prompted the need to revisit the academic literature to inform communication with patients about assisted dying.

Recent findings We reviewed applicable literature published in the past 5 years, pertaining to assisted dying and communication. In total, 86 articles were identified, 21 were flagged as relevant to review in detail, and six were included in the review. Key themes included perceived barriers and benefits to communicating with patients on the topic, pragmatic approaches for facilitating the conversation with patients, and the issue of proactively discussing assisted dying by broaching it as an option with patients.

Summary These findings indicate that there is still discomfort around having conversations about assisted dying with patients but new tools and approaches are being developed to support the practice.

aSunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

bDepartment of Family and Community Medicine

cDalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence to Sally Bean, JD, MA, 2075 Bayview Ave, Rm. H263, Toronto, ON M4N 3M5, Canada. Tel: +416 480 6100 x5081; fax: +416 480 6899; e-mail:

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