Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2017




Cambridge University Press




The physicians of ancient Greece valued conversation with their patients. Conversation, however, did not apply to slaves, whose minds and opinions did not matter. More than 2000 years later, slavery has been abolished and the law has joined ethics in setting standards for the doctor-patient relationship. The most important doctrine, in both medical ethics and health law, is the doctrine of informed consent (better termed "informed choice"), including its corollary, the right to refuse treatment. Today this doctrine is under attack. The attack is direct from business models that see genuine doctor-patient conversations as inefficient (and a waste of time), and indirect from new information technologies, especially the use of computer screens during doctor-patient encounters. Even the law has helped undermine informed choice by replacing doctor-patient conversations with legal forms.

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