Effecting Change Through Dialogue: Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action as a Tool in Medical Lifestyle Interventions
Walseth, Liv Tveit
Medicine, health care, and philosophy 2011 Feb; 14(1): 81-90
Adjustments of everyday life in order to prevent disease or treat illness afflict partly unconscious preferences and cultural expectations that are often difficult to change. How should one, in medical contexts, talk with patients about everyday life in ways that might penetrate this blurred complexity, and help people find goals and make decisions that are both compatible with a good life and possible to accomplish? In this article we pursue the question by discussing how Habermas' theory of communicative action can be implemented in decision-making processes in general practice. The theory of deliberative decision-making offers practical guidelines for what to talk about and how to do it. For a decision to be rooted in patients' everyday life it has to take into consideration the patient's practical circumstances, emotions and preferences, and what he or she perceives as ethically right behaviour towards other people. The aim is a balanced conversation, demonstrating respect, consistency and sincerity, as well as offering information and clarifying reasons. Verbalising reasons for one's preferences may increase awareness of values and norms, which can then be reflected upon, producing decisions rooted in what the patient perceives as good and right behaviour. The asymmetry of medical encounters is both a resource and a challenge, demanding patient-centred medical leadership, characterised by empathy and ability to take the patient's perspective. The implementation and adjustments of Habermas' theory in general practice is illustrated by a case story. Finally, applications of the theory are discussed.
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Walseth, Liv Tveit; Abildsnes, Eirik; Schei, Edvin (2011-05)To present theory that illustrates the relevance of ethics for lifestyle counselling in patient-centred general practice, and to illustrate the theory by a qualitative study exploring how doctors may obstruct or enhance ...