Institute for Bioethics & Health Humanities Events

Bryanna Moore, PhD

Two Minds, One Patient: Clearing Up Confusion about “Ambivalence”

Seminar Series Lecture by Bryanna Moore, PhD

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Patients sometimes struggle to make decisions about their healthcare. This is understandable; such decisions can involve tradeoffs between things of great importance or require patients to choose between two or more bad options. Patients who have trouble making medical decisions are often referred to as “ambivalent.” However, the current lack of attention to the nuances between a cluster of phenomena that resemble ambivalence means that we are not always recognizing what is really going on with a patient. Importantly, different kinds of “ambivalence” may call for different kinds of responses. In this presentation, we do the following: (1) present a taxonomy of ambivalence-related mental states, (2) provide ethical analysis of some of the effects of—and common responses to—such mental states, and (3) sketch some practical strategies for addressing ambivalence. In applying lessons from the philosophical literature and decision theory, our aim is to provide ethicists and healthcare professionals with the tools to better understand and effectively intervene in cases of ambivalence.

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Two Minds, One Patient: Clearing Up Confusion about “Ambivalence”
, 2021 - -
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