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Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
Author note This paper owes much to an earlier paper that I wrote jointly with my colleague Kirsty Keywood which was published as 'Information, Ignorance and Autonomy' in the journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics. Publisher: Kluwer, 2001. The present paper concentrates solely on the ethical issues whereas our joint paper considered the legal dimensions of this issue in some detail. However, the present paper covers some of the same moral ground as that covered in 'Information, Ignorance and Autonomy'. Kirsty’s influence is still very much a feature of this paper and I acknowledge a substantial debt to her.
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