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
Ubel PA. Informed Consent: From Bodily Invasion to the Seemingly Mundane. Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(12):1262–1263. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440110020004
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