Argumentation and informed consent in the doctor–patient relationship
Jerome Bickenbach |
University of Lucerne and Swiss Paraplegic Research (SPF), Nottwil, Switzerland
Argumentation theory has much to offer our understanding of the doctor-patient relationship as it plays out in the context of seeking and obtaining consent to treatment. In order to harness the power of argumentation theory in this regard, I argue, it is necessary to take into account insights from the legal and bioethical dimensions of informed consent, and in particular to account for features of the interaction that make it psychologically complex: that there is a fundamental asymmetry of authority, power and expertise between doctor and patient; that, given the potential for coercion, it is a challenge to preserve the interactive balance presumed by the requirement of informed consent; and finally that the necessary condition that patients be ‘competent to consent’ may undermine the requirement of respecting patient autonomy. I argue argumentation theory has the resources to deal with these challenges and expand our knowledge, and appreciation, of the informed consent interaction in health care.
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