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Soc Sci Med. 1997 Mar;44(5):647-56.

The role of decision analysis in informed consent: choosing between intuition and systematicity.

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  • 1Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


An important goal of informed consent is to present information to patients so that they can decide which medical option is best for them, according to their values. Research in cognitive psychology has shown that people are rapidly overwhelmed by having to consider more than a few options in making choices. Decision analysis provides a quantifiable way to assess patients' values, and it eliminates the burden of integrating these values with probabilistic information. In this paper we evaluate the relative importance of intuition and systematicity in informed consent. We point out that there is no gold standard for optimal decision making in decisions that hinge on patient values. We also point out that in some such situations it is too early to assume that the benefits of systematicity outweigh the benefits of intuition. Research is needed to address the question of which situations favor the use of intuitive approaches of decision making and which call for a more systematic approach.

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