Looking for our new site?

Avoidable Ignorance: Patient Decision Aids and Shared Decision Making

  • and Ben Moulton, JD. MPH; Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making
January 11, 2013 |
Publication Image

Photo from University of Idaho Digital Archive on Flickr. Creative Commons license.

Every medical treatment comes with the possibility of both benefits and harms. Understanding these tradeoffs is particularly important in the case of elective tests and procedures, where more than one reasonable treatment option exists and medical evidence does not point to a particular treatment choice as the “right” one. Such treatments are often called “preference-sensitive” because the rate at which they are delivered is sensitive to, or in part depends upon the patient or the provider’s preference.

When faced with choices among preference-sensitive treatments, both the provider and the patient should have an opportunity to participate in the decision. All too often, however, patients do not participate fully, even when the decision has the potential for a dramatic impact on their wellbeing.

For the full report, see the PDF at right.


Despite ethical mandates requiring disclosure of all relevant medical information and legal standards obligating physicians to obtain informed consent, patients routinely make decisions in the face of what can only be described as avoidable ignorance.

Related Programs