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Re-Evaluating the Therapeutic Misconception: Response to Miller and Joffe

Responding to the paper by Miller and Joffe, we review the development of the concept of therapeutic misconception (TM). Our concerns about TM's impact on informed consent do not derive from the belief that research subjects have poorer outcomes than persons receiving ordinary clinical care. Rather, we believe that subjects with TM cannot give an adequate informed consent to research participation, which harms their dignitary interests and their abilities to make meaningful decisions. Ironically, Miller and Joffe's approach ends up largely embracing the very position that they inaccurately attribute to us: the belief that, with some exceptions, it is only the prospect of poorer outcomes that should motivate efforts to dispel TM. In the absence of empirical studies on the steps required to dispel TM and the impact of such procedures on subject recruitment, it is premature to surrender to the belief that TM must be widely tolerated in clinical research.