Can patient empowerment be taken too far?

Donald Berwick is a physician at the forefront of the patient empowerment movement.

In a recent interview, he believes that medical care needs to be more patient-centered, in effect, “transfer[ring] control from doctors to the patients themselves,” and, “patient preference occasionally putting evidence-based care “in the back seat.”

I wonder how, as a pediatrician, he’s handling the anti-vaccine movement.

In response to a question on patient choices that come in conflict with evidence-based medicine, he says that, “Human beings have got to have the ability and the responsibility to make their own decisions. As long as they know everything they need to know, they should be able to make the decision. If we doctors feel a person is going to make unwise choices, we have to take on the responsibility of being teachers, educators and informers. We need to give people all the knowledge and information so they can make their decisions well.”

I’ve mentioned before that there are some that are unswayed by the medical establishment, especially in a polarizing issue like vaccines and autism.

If public safety is threatened, especially with the increasing number of parents refusing the vaccinate their children, does Dr. Berwick still believe they are making an informed decision?

Family physician Doug Farrago has doubts on Dr. Berwick’s vision, saying, “[he] believes patients are our peers. Really? Working together to solve a medical problem is not the same as being my professional peer.”

Indeed.

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