Limiting risks by curtailing rights: a response to Dr Ryan

Journal of Medical Ethics 22 (2):100-104 (1996)
It has been argued that the inherent risks of advance directives made by healthy people are disproportionate to the potential benefits, particularly if the directive is implementable in cases of reversible mental incapacity. This paper maintains that the evidence for such a position is lacking. Furthermore, respect for the principle of autonomy requires that individuals be permitted to make risky choices about their own lives as long as these do not impinge on others. Even though health professionals have an obligation to try and ensure that patients have appropriate information about possible future treatment options, they cannot predict and describe every eventuality but nor can they disregard firm decisions knowingly made on the basis of incomplete information by competent adults. To attempt to do so would be to reinstate notions of medical paternalism which are contrary to current public expectations
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