Clinical ethics consultation in patients with head and neck cancer

Andrew G. Shuman, Mary S. McCabe, Joseph J. Fins, Dennis H. Kraus, Jatin P. Shah, Snehal G. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background The purpose of this study was to describe the impact of clinical ethics consultations among patients with head and neck cancer in order to better anticipate and manage clinical challenges. Methods A database was queried to identify patients with head and neck cancer for whom ethics consultation was performed at a comprehensive cancer center (n = 14). Information from the database was verified via data abstraction and analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. Results Common requests for ethics consultation involved code status (6 of 14) and withdrawal/withholding life-sustaining treatments (6 of 14). Common contextual features were interpersonal conflicts (6 of 14) and communication barriers (5 of 14). Airway management concerns were frequent (5 of 14). Whereas 21% of patients had do not resuscitate (DNR) orders before ethics consultation, 79% were DNR subsequently. Conclusion Ethics consultations among patients with head and neck cancer reflect distinctive complexities inherent to their disease, but are entirely consistent with global clinical ethical themes. Consideration of communication barriers, social isolation/stigma, symptom control, and airway management are critical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1647-1651
Number of pages5
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • clinical ethics
  • end of life care
  • ethics consultation
  • head and neck cancer
  • palliative care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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