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ABSTRACT

Behavioural psychology showed that so-called ‘nudging’ or, more generally, ‘non-persuasive’ influences can have a decisive impact on people’s behaviour. In this presentation, I examine the question of when, if at all, such influences vitiate consent to a medical procedure. After explaining what I call ‘non-persuasive influences’ in greater detail, I reject the majority view, according to which such influences vitiate consent if and only if they fail to satisfy the conditions of easy resistibility, transparency, or rationality. Instead, I argue that non-persuasive influences vitiate consent if and only if they ‘undermine’ a person’s decision-making in one three ways, which I call distraction, exclusion, and pressure; and they preserve valid consent when they ‘enhance’ a person’s decision-making in one of three ways, which I call de-biasing, re-biasing, and - in specific situations - exploiting some bias. I will offer two types of support for my view: firstly, my view – unlike those accounts focusing on resistibility, transparency, and rationality – delivers the correct result in a range of cases and, secondly, my view correctly aligns with more general considerations concerning an appropriate protection of the consenter’s autonomy. 

This WEH/Ethox seminar will be held by video conference through Bluejeans. Please email admin@ethox.ox.ac.uk for the link to the meeting.