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National Bioethics Committee discusses ‘nudging’ document

Nudging is the application of behavioural science to encourage populations towards better health and the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health has requested the advice of the Committee on the subject.

According to the minutes of the Committee’s meeting in September, alternative policy options might include prohibition, legislation, taxation or education.

There was a detailed discussion of the importance of evidence to support specific nudging interventions, particularly given the impact that such measures can have on individuals in terms of autonomy, for example. It was decided that the opinion document should outline a set of ethical principles that should be taken into consideration and weighed against each other for all proposed nudging interventions. Also, it was agreed that the document should provide examples of different types of nudging intervention  and discuss how the ethical framework might be applied in such cases.

The secretariat would work on the document over the coming months, particularly in relation to incorporating the discussion points raised at the meeting. The revised document would then be discussed with the rapporteurs before being circulated to the wider Committee for consideration and final sign-off, according to the minutes.

The Department of Health held a symposium earlier this year entitled ‘Influencing Healthy Lifestyles: Nudging or Shoving? The Ethical Debate’.

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