William Simkulet, ‘Informed consent and nudging’

In order to avoid patient abuse, under normal situations before performing a medical intervention on a patient, a physician must obtain informed consent from that patient, where to give genuine informed consent a patient must be competent, understand her condition, her options and their expected risks and benefits, and must expressly consent to one of those options. However, many patients refrain from the option that their physician believes to be best, and many physicians worry that their patients make irrational healthcare decisions, hindering their ability to provide efficient healthcare for their patients. Some philosophers have proposed a solution to this problem: they advocate that physicians nudge their patients to steer them towards their physician’s preferred option. A nudge is any influence designed to predictably alter a person’s behavior without limiting their options or giving them reasons to act. Proponents of nudging contend that nudges are consistent with obtaining informed consent. Here I argue that nudging is incompatible with genuine informed consent, as it violates a physician’s obligation to tell their patients the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth during adequate disclosure.

William Simkulet, Informed consent and nudging, Bioethics, volume 33, issue 1, January 2019, pages 169-184, https://doi.org/10.1111/bioe.12449.

First posted 2018-12-28 07:10:15

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