Reconciling the theory and reality of shared decision‐making: A “matching” approach to practitioner leadership
Abstract Shared decision making (SDM) evolved to resolve tension between patients’ entitlement to make health‐care decisions and practitioners’ responsibility to protect patients’ interests. Implicitly assuming that patients are willing and able to make “good” decisions, SDM proponents suggest that...
|Abstract Shared decision making (SDM) evolved to resolve tension between patients’ entitlement to make health‐care decisions and practitioners’ responsibility to protect patients’ interests. Implicitly assuming that patients are willing and able to make “good” decisions, SDM proponents suggest that patients and practitioners negotiate decisions. In practice, patients often do not wish to participate in decisions, or cannot make good decisions. Consequently, practitioners sometimes lead decision making, but doing so risks the paternalism that SDM is intended to avoid. We argue that practitioners should take leadership when patients cannot make good decisions, but practitioners will need to know: (a) when good decisions are not being made; and (b) how to intervene appropriately and proportionately when patients cannot make good decisions. Regarding (a), patients rarely make decisions using formal decision logic, but rely on informal propositions about risks and benefits. As propositions are idiographic and their meanings context‐dependent, normative standards of decision quality cannot be imposed. Practitioners must assess decision quality by making subjective and contextualized judgements as to the “reasonableness” of the underlying propositions. Regarding (b), matched to judgements of reasonableness, we describe levels of leadership distinguished according to how directively practitioners act; ranging from prompting patients to question unreasonable propositions or consider new propositions, to directive leadership whereby practitioners recommend options or deny requested procedures. In the context of ideas of relational autonomy, the objective of practitioner leadership is to protect patients’ autonomy by supporting good decision making, taking leadership in patients’ interests only when patients are unwilling or unable to make good decisions.