Abstract

Therapeutic options for breast cancer, particularly for early-stage disease, and increased patient participation in medical decision-making have oriented state legislatures toward ensuring that women with breast cancer have adequate information about treatment alternatives. Currently, 18 states have enacted statutes regarding physician disclosure of treatment alternatives to breast cancer patients. This paper reviews these statutes in the context of the requirements imposed on the physician as health care provider and the content of medical information presented to the patient as a consequence of the laws. State statutes were identified through the National Cancer Institute's State Cancer Legislative Database, and the statutory requirements were analyzed. For statutes requiring development of a written summary of treatment alternatives, the most recent summary was obtained through the responsible state agency, and informational content was analyzed for relevance to treatment decisions in early-stage disease. As a group, these laws address informed consent for treatment, physician behavior within the patient-physician relationship, and the medical information upon which treatment decisions are based. Individual statutes vary in the scope of the issues addressed, particularly in the responsibility placed on physicians, and treatment option summaries developed in response to this legislation vary widely in content and scope. Despite broad implications of these statutes in oncology practice, little is known about their effects on breast cancer care. Additional research is needed to define the impact of these statutes on breast cancer care, as such legislation is considered by other states for this and other diseases.[J Natl Cancer Inst 86: 1202–1208, 1994]

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