'Patients' responsibilities in medical ethics

Heather Draper, T Sorrel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Patients have not been entirely ignored in medical ethics. There has been a shift from the general presumption that 'doctor knows best' to a heightened respect for patient autonomy. Medical ethics remains one-sided, however. It tends (incorrectly) to interpret patient autonomy as mere participation in decisions, rather than a willingness to take the consequences. In this respect, medical ethics remains largely paternalistic, requiring doctors to protect patients from the consequences of their decisions. This is reflected in a one-sided account of duties in medical ethics. Duties fall mainly on doctors and only exceptionally on patients. Medical ethics may exempt patients from obligations because they are the weaker or more vulnerable Party in the doctor-patient relationship. We argue that vulnerability does not exclude obligation. We also look at others ways in which patient responsibilities flow from general ethics: for instance, from responsibilities to others and to the self, from duties. of citizens, and from, the responsibilities of those who solicit advice. Finally, we argue that certain duties of patients counterbalance an otherwise unfair captivity of doctors as helpers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)335-353
    Number of pages19
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2002


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