Shared decision making to meet the ethical imperative

Shared decision making is the right thing to do. It hinges on one of the four ethical principles of healthcare – respect for autonomy.

We should, and we must, allow people to be involved with decisions about their healthcare; to express their opinions on what outcomes matter most to them or which of their preferences are most important.

The decisions may be as simple as whether to have pills or injections or as complicated as deciding between aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy and dialysis or more conservative therapies.

This is reflected in the 2008 GMC Guidance on Consent which states that:

“Fundamental to the doctor and patient relationship is the requirement that a patient with capacity to decide should be informed about the treatment options open to him or her; the risks and benefits of each option; and be supported to make their choice about which treatment best meets their needs.”