Is more choice always better?
Greater choice is always better for patients, right? The regulatory body for doctors in the United Kingdom, the General Medical Council, certainly thinks so. At the heart of their guidance for doctors is the principle that patients have the right to self determination. The doctor’s role is to inform, counsel, and empower but not to choose on the patient’s behalf. UK policymakers also aspire to promote patient choice. Reforms of the National Health Service aim to transform it from state monopoly to a diverse healthcare marketplace, where patient-consumers can shop around for the doctors, hospitals, and treatments they want. The result is that, increasingly, doctors and healthcare systems are divesting themselves of responsibility for decision making. By empowering patients to choose, the argument goes, we serve them better.
I had a taste of this brave new world at a recent visit to a travel clinic, where I was asked whether