Should immediate breast reconstruction be performed in the setting of radiotherapy? An ethical analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Immediate breast reconstruction (IBR) combined with post-mastectomy radiotherapy (PMRT) is associated with an increased risk for complications. Here, we analyse whether IBR combined with PMRT is ethically acceptable. We employ normative analysis following reflective equilibrium and the principles of Beauchamp and Childress: non-maleficence, beneficence, autonomy, and justice. From the perspective of beneficence and non-maleficence, we can choose either IBR or PMRT according to documented risks and complications, delayed autologous breast reconstruction with corresponding benefits but less risk for complications, or even no reconstruction, which for some women, might be equally beneficial. In such a situation, given the level of severity associated with lacking a breast after mastectomy, IBR violates the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence. To deny an IBR in the context of PMRT does not violate the principle of autonomy as it is normally interpreted in the healthcare system, not even when patient-centred care is taken into consideration. Moreover, there is a risk that the decision of the patient will be affected by heuristics, optimism bias, and surgeon bias. IBR in the context of PMRT could be in conflict with the principle of justice, as it could lead to displacement of care for other patient groups. Furthermore, an acceptable level of cost effectiveness should be low, given that living without a breast is a condition of moderate severity. In conclusion, given the current knowledgebase and established ethical norms within the healthcare system, we find strong ethical reasons not to offer IBR when PMRT is expected.

Details

Authors
Organisations
External organisations
  • Linköping University
  • Sahlgrenska University Hospital
  • University of Gothenburg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Surgery
  • Medical Ethics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
JournalJournal of Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019 Nov 8
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes