When treatment seems too much

To cure a primary cancer, it can seem worthwhile having treatment with side effects. But when a cure is unlikely, it may seem less reasonable to choose treatments that leave you feeling exhausted or sick, even if they will help you to live longer.

  • Before you start or stop treatment, think about the benefits and drawbacks. Rarely do decisions have to be made quickly.
  • Ask yourself if you are feeling unwell from the side effects of the treatment, from the advancing disease or from emotional overload. Some or all of these may be able to be treated.
  • Talk with others, particularly your doctor and those close to you. Their input and support may help clarify your thoughts.
  • Speak to professionals, such as a counsellor or social worker, who can help you decide what is important to you.

Refusal of medical treatment

You have the right to accept or refuse any treatment offered. For your refusal to be accepted, you must understand the nature of the treatment proposed and the consequences of not having it. You can refuse each treatment separately – you do not have to accept treatment on an all-or-nothing basis.

In some states and territories, you will need to complete a refusal of treatment certificate, which your treating doctors must follow. For more, see Advance care planning.


This information was last reviewed in December 2016
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