Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (1):137-150 (2021)

Ben Davies
Oxford University
There is an ongoing debate in medicine about whether patients have a ‘right not to know’ pertinent medical information, such as diagnoses of life-altering diseases. While this debate has employed various ethical concepts, probably the most widely-used by both defenders and detractors of the right is autonomy. Whereas defenders of the right not to know typically employ a ‘liberty’ conception of autonomy, according to which to be autonomous involves doing what one wants to do, opponents of the right not to know often employ a ‘duty’ understanding, viewing autonomy as involving an obligation to be self-governing. The central contribution of this paper is in showing that neither view of autonomy can reasonably be said to support the extreme stances on the right not to know that they are sometimes taken to. That is, neither can a liberty view properly defend a right not to know without limits, nor can a duty view form the basis of an absolute rejection of the right not to know. While there is still theoretical distance between these two approaches, we conclude that the views are considerably closer on this issue than they first appear, opening the way for a possible compromise.
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-020-10133-9
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References found in this work BETA

Republicanism and Global Justice.Cécile Laborde - 2010 - European Journal of Political Theory 9 (1):48-69.
The Right Not to Know and the Obligation to Know.Ben Davies - 2020 - Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (5):300-303.
Freedom as the Absence of Arbitrary Power.Quentin Skinner - 2008 - In Cécile Laborde & John W. Maynor (eds.), Republicanism and Political Theory. Blackwell. pp. 83--101.
The Right Not to Know: An Autonomy Based Approach.R. Andorno - 2004 - Journal of Medical Ethics 30 (5):435-439.

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