J Med Ethics 25:537-540 doi:10.1136/jme.25.6.537
  • Research Article

Pregnancy, autonomy and paternalism.

  1. G M Lockwood
  1. Oxford Radcliffe Hospital.


      Modern medicine is increasingly aware of the significance of patient autonomy in making treatment choices. This would seem to be particularly important where the therapy requested was "voluntary" as in fertility treatment or cosmetic surgery. However, the Hippocratic doctrine "Primum non nocere", seems especially relevant where the treatment sought may have a low chance of a successful outcome or even be life-threatening. Mrs A's case demonstrates the difficulty faced by the physician who wants to maximise her patient's autonomy, but "Above all, do no harm".