Deferring the decision point: Treatment assertions in neurology outpatient consultations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recommendations can be implied by asserting some generalisation about a treatment’s benefit without overtly directing the patient to take it. Focusing on a collection of assertions in UK neurology consultations, this paper shows that these are overwhelmingly receipted as “merely” doing informing and argues that this is made possible by their ambiguous design: their relatively depersonalised formats convey that the neurologist is simply telling the patient what’s available, but the link made between the treatment and the patient’s condition implies that it will be of benefit. Thus, assertions, while stopping short of telling the patient what to do, are hearable as recommendation relevant. This delicates balance leaves it up to the patient to respond either to the implied or on-record action (recommending vs. informing). When treated as “merely” doing informing, assertions defer the decision point until the neurologist has done something more. Three main interactional functions of this are identified as follows: (i) indicating the existence of a solution to a concern, without making a decision relevant next; (ii) orienting to the patient’s right to choose; and (iii) making “cautious” recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1355-1365
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number11
Early online date23 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Crown copyright

Cite this