The degree and nature of patient involvement in consultations with health professionals influences problem and needs recognition and management, and public accountability. This paper suggests a framework for understanding the scope for patient involvement in such consultations. Patients are defined as co-producers of formal health services, whose potential for involvement in consultations depends on their personal rights, responsibilities and preferences. Patients' rights in consultations are poorly defined and, in the National Health Service (NHS), not legally enforceable. The responsibilities of patients are also undefined. I suggest that these are not to deny, of their own volition, the rights of others, which in consultations necessitate mutuality of involvement through information-exchange and shared decision-making. Preferences should be met insofar as they do not militate against responsibilities and rights.
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