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. 2017 Sep;12(3):117-123.
doi: 10.1177/1477750917704157. Epub 2017 Apr 19.

Is Healthcare Providers' Value-Neutrality Depending on How Controversial a Medical Intervention Is? Analysis of 10 More or Less Controversial Interventions

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Is Healthcare Providers' Value-Neutrality Depending on How Controversial a Medical Intervention Is? Analysis of 10 More or Less Controversial Interventions

Niels Lynöe et al. Clin Ethics. .
Free PMC article


Background: Swedish healthcare providers are supposed to be value-neutral when making clinical decisions. Recent conducted studies among Swedish physicians have indicated that the proportion of those whose personal values influence decision-making (the value-influenced) vary depending on the framing and the nature of the issue.

Objective: To examine whether the proportions of value-influenced and value-neutral participants vary depending on the extent to which the intervention is considered controversial.

Methods: To discriminate between value-neutral and value-influenced healthcare providers, we have used the same methods in six vignette based studies including 10 more or less controversial interventions. To be controversial was understood as being an intervention where conscientious objections in healthcare have been proposed or an intervention that is against law and regulations.

Results: End of life decisions and female reproduction issues are associated with conscientious objection and more or less against regulations, and also resulted in the highest proportions of value-influenced participants. Following routines, which is not in conflict with official values, were associated with one of the lowest proportion of value-influenced participants. The difference between the highest and lowest proportions of value-influenced participants among the 10 examined interventions was significant (81.8% (95% confidence interval: 78.1-85.5) versus 34.7% (95% confidence interval: 29.2-40.2)).

Conclusion: The study indicates that the proportions of value-neutral participants decrease the more controversial an issue is, and vice versa. In some cases, however, framing effects may potentiate or obscure this association. As a bold hypothesis, we suggest the proportion of value-neutral or value-influenced might indicate how controversial an issue is.

Keywords: Abortion; assisted suicide; bioethics and medical ethics; clinical ethics; legal aspects; moral and religious aspects; professional ethics; reproductive technologies; resource allocation.

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