Patient attitudes towards side effect information: An important foundation for the ethical discussion of the nocebo effect of informed consent

Patient attitudes towards side effect information: An important foundation for the ethical discussion of the nocebo effect of informed consent
Research Article
Mette Sieg, Lene Vase
Clinical Ethics, 1 February 2022
Abstract
A growing body of evidence suggests that the informed consent process, in which patients are warned about potential side effects of a treatment, can trigger a nocebo effect where expectations about side effects increase side effect occurrence. This has sparked an ethical debate about how much information patients ought to receive before a treatment while trying to balance the moral principles of patient autonomy and nonmaleficence. In keeping with the principle of patient autonomy, the opinion of patients themselves in relation to how much information they want about side effects is of utmost relevance in this debate. The literature was searched to identify surveys assessing patient attitudes towards side effect information. Across a broad variety of patient populations, treatment types, and countries, the majority of patients wished to be fully informed of potential side effects, particularly in relation to frequent and severe side effects, while only a small minority wanted minimal or no information at all. Results from this review suggest that nocebo research should focus on methods of avoiding nocebo effects of informed consent while ensuring that patients are well-informed about potential side effects.

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