Missing the point: Rogers v Whitaker and the ethical ideal of informed and shared decision making

23 June 2014

The High Court's judgment in Rogers v Whitaker (1992) 175 CLR 479 has belatedly recognised as persuasive the values and attitudes of particular patients in what constitutes for them a significant treatment risk. The importance now attached to these subjective patient factors was shown in the High Court's determination that physicians now have a duty to disclose and warn regarding material risks specific to the particular patient. It is our belief that the Rogers v Whitaker emphasis on the requirements for disclosure underscores much of the misinterpretation of consent as a single event or action rather than as an ever-present sequela of a process which informs decision-making. What is required is a shift in focus from disclosure to understanding and from unilateral information-transfer to the integrated process of shared and informed decision-making.