The Ethics of Shared Decision Making
After enthusiastically welcoming the participation of patients in shared decision making, physicians are sorting out what, exactly, the term means. How much medical information must patients have in order to “share” meaningfully in treatment decisions? How much information is too much? Are statistical probabilities of risk and benefit helpful to patients? Should physicians only offer those diagnostic and treatment alternatives that they believe are in the patient’s best interest? This month’s authors explore the legal and ethical demands and limits of shared decision making.