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To nudge or not to nudge: cancer screening programmes and the limits of libertarian paternalism


‘Nudging—and the underlying idea ‘libertarian paternalism’—to an increasing degree influences policy thinking in the healthcare sector. This article discusses the influence exerted upon a woman's choice of participation in the Danish breast screening programme in light of ‘libertarian paternalism’. The basic tenet of ‘libertarian paternalism’ is outlined and the relationship between ‘libertarian paternalism’ and informed consent investigated. Key elements in the process of enrolling women into the Danish mammography screening programme are introduced. It is shown that for several reasons the influence exerted upon women's choices of participation cannot be justified within a welfare-enhancing libertarian paternalistic framework. The article suggests that screening programmes alternatively adopt a liberty-enhancing approach and considers the practical implications of this alternative.

  • Nudging
  • libertarian paternalism
  • informed consent
  • mass screening
  • breast neoplasms
  • ethics
  • public health policy
  • screening
  • general practice
  • preventive medicine
  • psychometrics
  • public health

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