The role of knowledge and medical involvement in the context of informed consent: a course or a blessing?

The role of knowledge and medical involvement in the context of informed consent: a course or a blessing?
Caterina Milo
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 1 November 2022
Open Access
Abstract
Informed consent (IC) is a key patients’ right. It gives patients the opportunity to access relevant information/knowledge and to support their decision-making role in partnership with clinicians. Despite this promising account of IC, the relationship between ‘knowledge’, as derived from IC, and the role of clinicians is often misunderstood. I offer two examples of this: (1) the prenatal testing and screening for disabilities; (2) the consent process in the abortion context. In the first example, IC is often over-medicalized, that is to say the disclosure of information appears to be strongly in the clinicians’ hands. In this context, knowledge has often been a curse on prospective parents. Framing information in a doctor-centred and often negative way has hindered upon prospective parents’ decision-making role and also portrayed wrong assumptions upon disabled people more widely. In the second context, information is more often than not dismissed and, in a de-medicalized scenario, medical contribution often underplayed. The latter leads to an understanding of the dialogue with clinicians as a mere hinderance to the timely access to an abortion. Ultimately, I claim that it is important that knowledge, as derived from IC, is neither altogether dismissed via a process of de-medicalization, nor used as a curse on patients via a process of over-medicalization. None of the two gives justice to IC. Only when a better balance between medical and patients’ contribution is sought, knowledge can aspire to be a blessing (i.e. an opportunity for them), not a curse on patients in the IC context.

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