Ethical Issues in Using Behavior Contracts to Manage the “Difficult” Patient and Family

Link to article at PubMed

Am J Bioeth. 2021 Sep 30:1-11. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2021.1974974. Online ahead of print.


Long used as a tool for medical compliance and adhering to treatment plans, behavior contracts have made their way into the in-patient healthcare setting as a way to manage the "difficult" patient and family. The use of this tool is even being adopted by healthcare ethics consultants (HECs) in US hospitals as part of their work in navigating conflict at the bedside. Anecdotal evidence of their increasing popularity among clinical ethicists, for example, can be found at professional bioethics meetings and conversations and idea-sharing among practitioners on HEC social media. While there are a handful of papers gesturing toward a bioethical critique of behavior contracts of various types, the use of behavior contracts in the context of interpersonal conflict has not been vetted by bioethicists to determine their ethical legitimacy or efficacy. In this paper, we highlight a set of ethical concerns that we believe must be addressed before continuing or widespread implementation of behavior contracts to manage the "difficult" patient or family.

PMID:34590938 | DOI:10.1080/15265161.2021.1974974

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