A Qualitative Study on Nudging and Palliative Care: "An Attractive but Misleading Concept"

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 11;18(18):9575. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189575.


The debate about the ethical decision-making process in the healthcare context has been enriched with a theory called "nudging", which has been defined as the framing of information that can significantly influence behaviour without restricting choice. The literature shows very limited data on the opinion and experience of palliative care healthcare professionals on the use of nudging techniques in their care setting. The aim of this study is to explore the beliefs of experienced palliative care professionals towards nudging. We performed a qualitative study using textual data collected through a focus group. It was audio-recorded, and the transcripts were subjected to a thematic analysis. It was performed within an oncological research hospital with a small and multidisciplinary group of healthcare professionals specialised in PC. Participants reported two overarching positions grounded in two main themes: (1) translating nudging in the PC setting and (2) towards a neutral space. The participants found few justifications for the use of nudging in the PC field, even if it can be very attractive and reassuring. Participants also expressed concerns about the excessive risk of developing pure paternalism.

Keywords: ethics; nudging; oncology; palliative care.

MeSH terms

  • Focus Groups
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Morals
  • Palliative Care*
  • Qualitative Research