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January 10, 1996

Patient-Physician Communication: Respect for Culture, Religion, and Autonomy-Reply

Author Affiliations

Georgetown University Law Center Washington, DC

JAMA. 1996;275(2):109-110. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530260021017

In Reply.  —Scholars in health law and bioethics focus intensely on the right of patients to make autonomous decisions about their medical treatment. This is thought to require full disclosure of truthful information to assist the patient in the process of informed consent. Legal and ethical approval of the principle of autonomy has been so consistent that full and truthful information disclosure is broadly accepted as the standard of practice in medical care. Patients cannot genuinely arrive at meaningful choices about their health care unless they are apprised of all material benefits, adverse effects, and risks, including an informed assessment of their prognosis with and without treatment. Patients are faced with decisions that intimately and powerfully affect their lives. Medicine demonstrates its respect for persons by illuminating patients' decisions with information, not by making decisions for them.The fact that autonomous decision making usually demands full information does not mean