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Forced to be free? Increasing patient autonomy by constraining it
  1. Neil Levy
  1. Correspondence to Associate Professor Neil Levy, Florey Neuroscience Institutes, Royal Parade, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia; nllevy{at} Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, Suite 8, Littlegate House, 16/17 St Ebbes St, OX1 1PT, UK.


It is universally accepted in bioethics that doctors and other medical professionals have an obligation to procure the informed consent of their patients. Informed consent is required because patients have the moral right to autonomy in furthering the pursuit of their most important goals. In the present work, it is argued that evidence from psychology shows that human beings are subject to a number of biases and limitations as reasoners, which can be expected to lower the quality of their decisions and which therefore make it more difficult for them to pursue their most important goals by giving informed consent. It is further argued that patient autonomy is best promoted by constraining the informed consent procedure. By limiting the degree of freedom patients have to choose, the good that informed consent is supposed to protect can be promoted.

  • Bioethics
  • philosophy of psychology
  • moral responsibility
  • neuroethics

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