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Emotions and affects: the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle of understanding risk attitudes in medical decision-making
  1. Supriya Subramani
  1. Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Supriya Subramani, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney Sydney Health Ethics, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; supriya.subramani{at}

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Nicholas Makins argues persuasively that medical decisions should be made with consideration for patients’ higher order risk attitudes.1 I will argue that an understanding of risk attitudes in medical decision-making is incomplete without critical engagement with emotions and affects (feelings associated with something good or bad). The primary aim of this commentary is to emphasise that clinical decisions are often emotionally charged, and it is crucial to engage closely with emotions and affects that shape these decisions, particularly when navigating complex and uncertain situations. In the face of uncertainty, emotions such as fear, sadness or anxiety play a significant role in risk attitudes and medical decisions. I contend that recognising risk as a feeling is crucial to respecting patients’ values, preferences and decisions in light of the substantial body of research on risk perception and attitudes that suggests individuals make decisions based not only on what they think, but also on how they feel.

In recent years, scholars have begun to acknowledge the value of emotions in understanding medical decisions and healthcare decision-making processes,2 especially under uncertainty. Furthermore, some philosophers and social scientists in field of risk research acknowledge emotions as both affective and cognitive in nature, and influence risk perceptions and attitudes.3 Risk …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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