The ‘best interests’ decision making standard is used in clinical care to make necessary health decisions for non-capacitated individuals for whom neither explicit nor inferred wishes are known. It has been also widely acknowledged as a basis for enrolling some non-capacitated adults into clinical research such as emergency, critical care, and dementia research. However, the best interests standard requires that choices provide the highest net benefit of available options, and clinical research rarely meets this criterion. In the context of modern norms of bioethics, the best interests standard rarely supports surrogate consent for research and should not be accepted as a routine provision.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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