Personalized Care, Collaboration Key to Navigating Ethics in Oncology Pharmacy


Karen Fancher, PharmD, addresses how hearing the perspectives of colleagues can offer invaluable support to shape individualized approaches to ethical dilemmas in oncology pharmacy.

Just as in any ethical dilemma, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to guide the ethical considerations and decision-making processes of oncology pharmacists. Factors such as illness severity, prognosis, patient wishes, and family input all play a role in charting a patient’s path forward. According to Karen Fancher, PharmD, taking a personalized approach ensures that each patient receives the best possible care.

“I feel that we have some patients that are very severely ill, but are going to be cured,” said Fancher. “[For that patient, oncology pharmacists might take] a different approach than to a patient who is severely ill, and this is an end-of-life situation. I think that every individual situation would need to be addressed in that context.” Fancher sat down with Drug Topics at the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) 2024 Annual Conference held in Tampa, Florida.

But despite the lack of standard guidance, resources exist to assist oncology pharmacists in ethically murky situations. According to Fancher, most major health care systems have medical ethics committees that many pharmacists are unaware of. These networks can offer valuable guidance for navigating complex ethical concerns.

“Most medical ethics committees that I’ve dealt with are actually very interested in having a pharmacist’s opinion,” said Fancher. “Not only knowing about their existence, but certainly volunteering to go to one of their meetings or educational sessions—that’s how I got on my own medical ethics committee. I just started asking some questions, and next thing you knew they asked me to join.”

What’s more, conferences focused on ethics provide opportunities to learn and connect with colleagues. Hearing the perspectives of other oncology pharmacists who have been through similar situations can offer invaluable support when facing difficult ethical dilemmas.

“In my own ethical dilemmas, I’ve called some colleagues that I’ve met at places like HOPA, asking, ‘What do you think I should do?’” said Fancher. “Building my own personal network at conferences like this has been really helpful when I need a second opinion, or just some reassurance of how to proceed.”

Read more of our coverage from the HOPA 2024 Annual Conference here.

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