Treatment refusal and abandonment in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia in Indonesia: an analysis of causes and consequences



Background: Treatment refusal and abandonment are common causes of treatment failure in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in many developing countries. In most studies reasons for abandonment were based on the opinion of health-care providers (HCP), very few studies have focused on the parental point-of-view. Aims of the study were to analyze the parents' reasons of abandonment and to ascertain the fate of children who abandoned treatment in a pediatric oncology centre in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Methods: We conducted home-visits to interview families of ALL patients, diagnosed between January 2004 and August 2007, who refused or abandoned treatment.

Results: From January 2004 to August 2007, 159 patients were diagnosed with ALL of which 40 children (25%) refused or abandoned therapy. Thirty-seven (93%) of these children were home-visited. Reasons for abandonment were complex. Most parents mentioned several reasons. Financial and transportation difficulties were not the only, or even the main reasons, for abandonment. Belief of ALL incurability, experience of severe side effects and dissatisfaction with HCP were also important considerations. Most patients (64%) abandoned treatment during the diagnostic-evaluation or remission-induction phase. Of the 37 patients who refused or abandoned treatment, 26 (70%) children died, and 11 (30%) children were still alive, 2 of them more than 2 years after abandonment.

Conclusions: Reducing treatment abandonment of childhood ALL in developing countries requires not only financial and transportation support, but also parental education, counseling and psychosocial support during therapy, improvement of quality-of-care and adequate management of side effects. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.