A matter of perspective: choosing for others differs from choosing for yourself in making treatment decisions.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Background

Many people display omission bias in medical decision making, accepting the risk of passive nonintervention rather than actively choosing interventions (such as vaccinations) that result in lower levels of risk.

Objective

Testing whether people's preferences for active interventions would increase when deciding for others versus for themselves.

Research design

Survey participants imagined themselves in 1 of 4 roles: patient, physician treating a single patient, medical director creating treatment guidelines, or parent deciding for a child. All read 2 short scenarios about vaccinations for a deadly flu and treatments for a slow-growing cancer.

Participants

Two thousand three hundred and ninety-nine people drawn from a demographically stratified internet sample.

Measures

Chosen or recommended treatments. We also measured participants' emotional response to our task.

Results

Preferences for risk-reducing active treatments were significantly stronger for participants imagining themselves as medical professionals than for those imagining themselves as patients (vaccination: 73% [physician] & 63% [medical director] vs 48% [patient], Ps<.001; chemotherapy: 68% & 68% vs 60%, Ps<.012). Similar results were observed for the parental role (vaccination: 57% vs 48%, P=.003; chemotherapy: 72% vs 60%, P<.001). Reported emotional reactions were stronger in the responsible medical professional and parental roles yet were also independently associated with treatment choice, with higher scores associated with reduced omission tendencies (OR=1.15 for both regressions, Ps<.01).

Conclusions

Treatment preferences may be substantially influenced by a decision-making role. As certain roles appear to reinforce "big picture" thinking about difficult risk tradeoffs, physicians and patients should consider re-framing treatment decisions to gain new, and hopefully beneficial, perspectives.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Zikmund-Fisher, BJ; Sarr, B; Fagerlin, A; Ubel, PA

Published Date

  • June 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 21 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 618 - 622

PubMed ID

  • 16808746

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC1924622

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1525-1497

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0884-8734

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00410.x

Language

  • eng