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Book and Media Reviews
July 18, 2007

The Ethics of Coercion in Mass Casualty Medicine

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD.

JAMA. 2007;298(3):339-343. doi:10.1001/jama.298.3.339

Personal liberty is one of the United States' most cherished values. Wars have been fought and lives have been lost to preserve it. It is also undoubtedly one of the most distinguishing marks of culture and life in the United States. Many outside US borders yearn for it. And people within those borders are not wont to surrender it easily. Nor are they fond of encroachments on it.

In health care, personal liberty finds expression in the exercise of autonomy. Individuals are seen to have the right to make health care decisions in accordance with their own freely chosen beliefs, values, and preferences. In many ways, this personal liberty or autonomy is reinforced by the very nature of the therapeutic relationship. The patient is the primary focus of the relationship and, at least for those who are insured, there are few constraints on the patient's choices.