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Justifying risk-related standards of capacity via autonomy alone
  1. Abraham Graber
  1. Philosophy and Classics, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Abraham Graber, Philosophy and Classics, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, USA; agraber{at}


The debate over risk-related standards of decisional capacity remains one of the most important and unresolved challenges to our understanding of the demands of informed consent. On one hand, risk-related standards benefit from significant intuitive support. On the other hand, risk-related standards appear to be committed to asymmetrical capacity—a conceptual incoherence. This latter objection can be avoided by holding that risk-related standards are the result of evidential considerations introduced by (i) the reasonable person standard and (ii) the standing assumption that patients have capacity. This evidential approach to justifying risk-related standards of capacity avoids the most significant challenges faced by extant views while grounding risk-related standards in two fairly uncontroversial views in biomedical ethics.

  • capacity
  • autonomy
  • informed consent

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  • Contributors I am solely responsible for conceiving of and writing this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have 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.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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