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How to Approach Medical Decision-Making Across Cultures

By Megan Bedford on 4/24/18 1:16 PM

How should important medical decisions be made?

If you've grown up in the U.S., you're probably familiar with the concept of a patient's "right to know." American culture holds that patients are entitled to be fully informed in their own medical care, including the decision-making process. In some cultures, however, autonomy in decision-making is not the norm. For many people, it is essential to involve (or even defer to) others, particularly family members, in important health decisions. In such families, it's common to look to an authority figure (determined by gender, position in the family, or level of acculturation) as the primary decision-maker within the group. In some cases, these families may wish to exclude the patient from decisions in order to avoid what is perceived as undue stress. This can cause friction between health providers, patients, and their relatives.

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