Physicians’ framing and recommendations. Are they nudging? And do they violate the requirements of informed consent?

Journal of Medical Ethics 44 (8):543-544 (2018)
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Abstract

In his recent article ‘Nudging, Informed Consent and Bullshit’, William Simkulet1 convincingly argues that certain types of nudging satisfy Frankfurt’s criteria of bullshit. As a prelude to this argument, Simkulet considers whether recommendations and framing are types of nudging and whether they satisfy the requirement of adequate disclosure essential for a valid informed consent. He defines nudging as the systematic attempt at altering behaviour by non-rational means, and describes adequate disclosure as providing the patient with true information that enables an understanding of treatment options and their risks and benefits. Simkulet argues that recommendations and framing are types of rational persuasion in that they potentially enhance patients’ understanding of treatment options and their risks and benefits. Therefore, not only do they not qualify as nudging, but they may be required in order to secure adequate disclosure. In this brief comment, I focus on Simkulet’s considerations of framing and show that framing may be nudging and that it may violate the requirements of informed consent. The framing of medical information may influence patients’ preferences for treatment. It has been shown that framing information about a risky medical intervention in chance of survival rather than risk of death increases patients’ preferences for the intervention.2 3 In his exploration of framing, Simkulet contends that the fact that people respond differently to …

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