Friday, April 25, 2008

Disclosing Risk: Good Communication or "Doctor-Knows-Best"?

A newly published paper from PredictER's Peter H. Schwartz and Eric M. Meslin, examines the challenges of balancing beneficence and the respect for autonomy in preventive and predictive medicine. In "The ethics of information: absolute risk reduction and patient understanding of screening" (J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Apr 18; [Epub ahead of print] | PMID: 18421509) the authors question whether providing absolute probabilities of risk based, for example, on genetic screening for breast cancer, is always in the best interest of the patient's health. While many argue the respect for the patient's autonomy demands that risk is communicated numerically or graphically, Schwartz and Meslin argue that the disclosures should be made "in the light of careful consideration of patient understanding and possible impacts on uptake and well-being".

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