Consenting to Uncertainty: Challenges for Informed Consent to Disease Screening-a Case Study
Smith, Suzanne M.
Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 2008; 29(6): 371-386
This paper uses chronic beryllium disease as a case study to explore some of the challenges for decision-making and some of the problems for obtaining meaningful informed consent when the interpretation of screening results is complicated by their probabilistic nature and is clouded by empirical uncertainty. Although avoidance of further beryllium exposure might seem prudent for any individual whose test results suggest heightened disease risk, we will argue that such a clinical precautionary approach is likely to be a mistake. Instead, advice on the interpretation of screening results must focus not on risk per se, but on avoidable risk, and must be carefully tailored to the individual. These points are of importance for individual decision-making, for informed consent, and for occupational health.
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