Medical staff attitudes: Views and positions regarding blood transfusion to terminally ill cancer patients

Arthur Leibovitz*, Yehuda Baumoehl, Natalio Walach, Vladymir Kaplun, Erica Sigler, Silviu Balan, Beni Habot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Blood transfusion is a widely used supportive treatment of cancer patients, most of whom are anemic. In the particular subset of cancer patients that undergoes chemotherapy, blood transfusion is viewed as an essential part of supportive care. However, the place of blood transfusion in anemic terminally ill cancer patients is far less established. There are no well-defined blood transfusion guidelines ("transfusion trigger") for these patients. Hence, transfusion decisions are greatly influenced by the personal views of the medical team. Therefore, a mail survey of 500 physicians (from several specialties) and nurses was initiated to assess their personal opinions on this topic. The overall response rate was relatively high (70%). There was broad agreement that blood transfusions, as a rule, should not be withheld from terminal cancer patients. On the other hand, only nurses were of the opinion that these patients should be transfused "as usual." Significantly, there was but a slight majority (53% of participants) that was of the opinion that transfusions to these patients do not prolong suffering. There emerged a short list of agreed-on suggestions for blood transfusion-namely, Hb level ≤ 7 mg/dL, active bleeding (acute and/or occult), functional deterioration of the patient, presence of anemia resulting from chemotherapy, anginal symptoms, dyspnea, and worsening congestive heart failure. The agreed-on suggestions for transfusions in terminally ill cancer patients may serve as a reasonable physician standard for this complex clinical, medical-legal, and emotional issue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-546
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Oncology: Cancer Clinical Trials
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Attitude
  • Blood transfusions
  • Medical staff
  • Terminally ill cancer patients


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