'Unilateral' and 'bilateral' practitioner approaches in decision-making about treatment

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Dec;61(12):2611-27. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.04.047. Epub 2005 Jul 11.


Practitioners can present and discuss decisions about the management of health problems in a variety of ways during consultations. This paper examines in detail how doctors talk with patients in relation to decision-making about treatment. Conversation analyses of decision-making sequences in consultations about diabetes in primary care and about treatment of ear nose and throat (ENT) cancer in a specialist oncology setting, both in the UK, revealed a spectrum of practitioner approaches ranging from more 'bilateral' to more 'unilateral'. This paper identifies the key communicative and organisational features of these approaches and provides some preliminary observations about the implications of these for patient participation in decision-making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Decision Making*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Medical Oncology / organization & administration
  • Otorhinolaryngologic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Patient Participation*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Referral and Consultation
  • United Kingdom