Value-impregnated factual claims may undermine medical decision-making

Clinical Ethics 13 (3):151-158 (2018)
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Abstract

Clinical decisions are expected to be based on factual evidence and official values derived from healthcare law and soft laws such as regulations and guidelines. But sometimes personal values instead influence clinical decisions. One way in which personal values may influence medical decision-making is by their affecting factual claims or assumptions made by healthcare providers. Such influence, which we call ‘value-impregnation,’ may be concealed to all concerned stakeholders. We suggest as a hypothesis that healthcare providers’ decision making is sometimes affected by value-impregnated factual claims or assumptions. If such claims influence e.g. doctor–patient encounters, this will likely have a negative impact on the provision of correct information to patients and on patients’ influence on decision making regarding their own care. In this paper, we explore the idea that value-impregnated factual claims influence healthcare decisions through a series of medical examples. We suggest that more research is needed to further examine whether healthcare staff’s personal values influence clinical decision-making.

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