[Skip to Navigation]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
June 24, 1996

Informed Consent: From Bodily Invasion to the Seemingly Mundane

Author Affiliations

Division of General Internal Medicine Center for Bioethics University of Pennsylvania 3401 Market St, Suite 320 Philadelphia, PA 19104

Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(12):1262-1263. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440110020004

ONE OF THE GREAT achievements of medical ethics may be how it has influenced our understanding of informed consent. Informed consent began largely as a legal construct. It developed from common law notions of battery, whereby people were understood to have a right to refuse invasion of their bodily integrity1—people are not supposed to stick knives into other people without their permission. Legal doctrines of informed consent continued to evolve, so that now it is common for informed consent cases to be tried on the grounds of negligence. Thus, for example, a physician would be negligent merely to accept a patient's refusal of a Pap smear, unless the physician informed the patient about the risks and benefits of refusing the test.

As much as legal doctrines of informed consent have evolved, they only rarely equal the ambitiousness of moral doctrines of informed consent. Legal doctrines are necessarily limited