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November 20, 2018

The New Age of Patient Autonomy: Implications for the Patient-Physician Relationship

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2Division of Oncology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
JAMA. 2018;320(19):1973-1974. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.14382

The rejection of medical paternalism in favor of respect for patient autonomy transformed the patient-physician relationship. Historically, medicine and society subscribed to the ethical norm that the physician’s main duty was to promote the patient’s welfare, even at the expense of the latter’s autonomy. A central assumption of the paternalistic framework was that physicians, because of their medical expertise, knew best what was in the best interest of patients. Accordingly, physicians decided which interventions would promote patients’ welfare; patients, for their part, were expected to comply.

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