Questioning ‘Informed Choice’ in Medical Screening: The Role of Neoliberal Rhetoric, Culture, and Social Context

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Participation in medical screening programs is presented as a voluntary decision that should be based on an informed choice. An informed choice is often emphasized to rely on three assumptions: (1) the decision-maker has available information about the benefits and harms, (2) the decision-maker can understand and interpret this information, and (3) the decision-maker can relate this information to personal values and preferences. In this article, we empirically challenge the concept of informed choice in the context of medical screening. We use document analysis to analyze and build upon findings and interpretations from previously published articles on participation in screening. We find that citizens do not receive neutral or balanced information about benefits and harms, yet are exposed to manipulative framing effects. The citizens have high expectations about the benefits of screening, and therefore experience cognitive strains when informed about the harm. We demonstrate that decisions about screening participation are informed by neoliberal arguments of personal responsibility and cultural healthism, and thus cannot be regarded as decisions based on individual values and preferences independently of context. We argue that the concept of informed choice serves as a power technology for people to govern themselves and can be considered an implicit verification of biopower.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Article number1230
Issue number19
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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