Autonomous and informed decision-making: The case of colorectal cancer screening

Linda N. Douma*, Ellen Uiters, Marcel F. Verweij, Danielle R.M. Timmermans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction It is increasingly considered important that people make an autonomous and informed decision concerning colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. However, the realisation of autonomy within the concept of informed decision-making might be interpreted too narrowly. Additionally, relatively little is known about what the eligible population believes to be a 'good' screening decision. Therefore, we aimed to explore how the concepts of autonomous and informed decision-making relate to how the eligible CRC screening population makes their decision and when they believe to have made a 'good' screening decision. Methods We conducted 27 semi-structured interviews with the eligible CRC screening population (eighteen CRC screening participants and nine non-participants). The general topics discussed concerned how people made their CRC screening decision, how they experienced making this decision and when they considered they had made a 'good' decision. Results Most interviewees viewed a 'good' CRC screening decision as one based on both reasoning and feeling/intuition, and that is made freely. However, many CRC screening non-participants experienced a certain social pressure to participate. All CRC screening non-participants viewed making an informed decision as essential. This appeared to be the case to a lesser extent for CRC screening participants. For most, experiences and values were involved in their decision-making. Conclusion Our sample of the eligible CRC screening population viewed aspects related to the concepts of autonomous and informed decision-making as important for making a 'good' CRC screening decision. However, in particular the existence of a social norm may be affecting a true autonomous decision-making process. Additionally, the present concept of informed decision-making with its strong emphasis on making a fully informed and well-considered decision does not appear to be entirely reflective of the process in practice. More efforts could be made to attune to the diverse values and factors that are involved in deciding about CRC screening participation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0233308
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


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