An Egalitarian Perspective on Information Sharing: The Example of Health Care Priorities

Health Care Analysis 32 (2):126-140 (2024)
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In health care, the provision of pertinent information to patients is not just a moral imperative but also a legal obligation, often articulated through the lens of obtaining informed consent. Codes of medical ethics and many national laws mandate the disclosure of basic information about diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment alternatives. However, within publicly funded health care systems, other kinds of information might also be important to patients, such as insights into the health care priorities that underlie treatment offers made. While conventional perspectives do not take this as an obligatory part of the information to be shared with patients, perhaps through viewing it as clinically “non-actionable,” we advocate for a paradigm shift. Our proposition diverges from the traditional emphasis on actionability. We contend that honoring patients as equal moral agents necessitates, among other principles, a commitment to honesty. Withholding specific categories of information pertinent to patients’ comprehension of their situation is inherently incompatible with this principle. In this article, we advocate for a recalibration of the burden of proof. Rather than requiring special justifications for adding to the standard set of information items, we suggest that physicians should be able to justify excluding relevant facts about the patient’s situation and the underlying considerations shaping health care professionals’ choices. This perspective prioritizes transparency and empowers patients with a comprehensive understanding, aligning with the ethos of respect for the patient as person.



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