Eschewing definitions of the therapeutic misconception: a family resemblance analysis

J Med Philos. 2011 Jun;36(3):296-320. doi: 10.1093/jmp/jhr014. Epub 2011 May 23.


Twenty-five years after the term "therapeutic misconception' (TM) first entered the literature, most commentators agree that it remains widespread. However, the majority of scholarly attention has focused on the reasons why a patient cum human subject might confuse the goals of research with the goals of therapy. Although this paper addresses the social and cultural factors that seem to animate the TM among subjects, it also fills a niche in the literature by examining why investigators too might operate under a similar confusion. In framing these issues, the paper expressly adopts a Wittgensteinian approach to evaluating the TM, suggesting that interlocutors do not need any analytic definition of the TM to use the term meaningfully in thinking about the moral implications of the TM in practice.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Beneficence
  • Biomedical Research / ethics*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / ethics*
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Human Experimentation / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics
  • Nontherapeutic Human Experimentation / ethics
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Research Subjects*
  • Therapeutic Human Experimentation / ethics