Does Shared Decision Making Respect a Patient's Relational Autonomy?

Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 25 (6):1063-1069 (2019)
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According to many of its proponents, shared decision making ("SDM") is the right way to interpret the clinician-patient relationship because it respects patient autonomy in decision-making contexts. In particular, medical ethicists have claimed that SDM respects a patient's relational autonomy understood as a capacity that depends upon, and can only be sustained by, interpersonal relationships as well as broader health care and social conditions. This paper challenges that claim. By considering two primary approaches to relational autonomy, this paper argues that standard accounts of SDM actually undermine patient autonomy. It also provides an overview of the obligations generated by the principle of respect for relational autonomy that have not been captured in standard accounts of SDM and which are necessary to ensure consistency between clinical practice and respect for patient autonomy.

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Jonathan Lewis
University of Manchester


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