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Blameworthy bumping? Investigating nudge’s neglected cousin


The realm of non-rational influence, which includes nudging, is home to many other morally interesting phenomena. In this paper, I introduce the term bumping, to discuss the category of unintentional non-rational influence. Bumping happens constantly, wherever people make choices in environments where they are affected by other people. For instance, doctors will often bump their patients as patients make choices about what treatments to pursue. In some cases, these bumps will systematically tend to make patients’ decisions worse. Put another way: doctors will sometimes harm their patients by bumping them in systematic (although still unintentional) ways. I use the case of medical overuse, the provision of medical services where the likely harm outweighs the likely benefit to the patient, as a touchstone for arguing that doctors who systematically bump their patients towards harm can be blameworthy for their unwitting influence.

  • clinical ethics
  • applied and professional ethics
  • autonomy
  • decision-making
  • informed consent

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