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Rethinking medical invasiveness in the clinical encounter
  1. Stephanie K Slack1,
  2. Nathan Higgins2
  1. 1 School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Nathan Higgins, School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; nathan.higgins{at}

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De Marco et al 1 argue that the standard account of medical ‘invasiveness’ (as ‘incision’ or ‘insertion’) fails to capture three aspects of its existing use, namely that invasiveness can come in degrees, often depends on features of alternative medical interventions and can be non-physical. They propose a new schematic account that suggests that medical interventions can possess ‘basic invasiveness’ (which can come in degrees and of which they suggest at least two types: physical and mental), and ‘threshold invasiveness’ which can depend on the alternatives a specific intervention is being compared with.

While we agree that the standard account of invasiveness fails to capture existing use and are supportive of their aim, here we express scepticism about the practical utility of De Marco et al’s revised account. Our scepticism concerns the application of De Marco et al’s revised account in the narrow context of clinician–patient communication and deliberation about medical interventions within clinical practice, which we see as a crucial context for its use. While De Marco et al do not specify the contexts in which their revised account could be used, we assume from their discussion of treatment interventions (e.g. non-invasive prenatal testing, ventilation) and their comparison to ‘more or less invasive’ options, that at least one of the purposes in mind for …

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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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