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Nicholas Makins makes a valuable contribution to the literature on medical decision-making, highlighting the role that risk attitudes play in deliberation and subsequently arguing that, in medical choices under uncertainty, if considerations of autonomy and beneficence support deference to patient values and outcome preferences then they also support deference to patients’ attitudes to risk.1 Crucially, however, Makins suggests that it is not simply first-order risk attitudes that are the appropriate target of deference but, rather, patients’ higher-order risk attitudes. In other words, Makins argues that if considerations of autonomy and beneficence support deference in medical decision-making, this deference should include the risk attitudes that individuals desire to have or reflectively endorse.
This commentary draws out a morally relevant and overlooked distinction between:
(1) deferring to patients’ higher-order attitudes that endorse the first-order risk attitudes they currently hold.
(2) deferring to patients’ higher-order attitudes that endorse risk attitudes that are at odds with the first-order risk attitudes they currently hold (which equates to a higher-order desire to change one’s first-order risk-attitudes).
I agree with Makins that if respect for autonomy and beneficence support deference to patient preferences, then these considerations may also support deference to at least some higher-order risk attitudes, namely, those of type (1). But I think that whether they support deference to those of type (2) is less clear. In particular, it does not …
Contributors AEK is the sole contributing author.
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.