When Should Careproviders Deviate from Consensus?


Edmund G. Howe


Consensus documents may be extremely helpful. They may, however, also do harm. They may, for example, suggest interventions that are less than optimal, especially when they apply to patients whose situations are at the “outer margins” of their applicability. Yet, even in these instances, clinicians and ethics consultants may still feel pressure to comply with a guideline. Then, we may not do what we think is best for our particular patient because we fear departing from a guideline. In this article I discuss the risks of departing from guidelines and suggest what we can do to overcome those possible risks. I suggest that while guidelines may help, we should continue to put, above all else, tailoring our interventions to our patients’ individual needs and wants. With our patients, together, we should decide what to do, notwithstanding what the most applicable guidelines propose.



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