The Justification of Medical Paternalism
Social Science and Medicine. 1982; 16(6): 731-739.
Bassford explores the moral justification of medical paternalism, which physicians often rationalize on utilitarian grounds as benefitting the patient without harming anyone. He demonstrates that alternatives are available in the three circumstances under which doctors tend to behave paternalistically: disclosing terminal illness, recommending procedures involving risk, and administering placebos. He concludes that paternalism may morally override patient autonomy only if the patient is incompetent, has authorized the physician to act paternalistically, or is known so well by the physician that his preferences can be deduced. (KIE abstract)
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