Phil 235 Paternalism Essay

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Paternalism in the Medical Profession
Philosophy 235 EC: Biomedical Ethics

“The only appropriate and realistic model of the Dr.‐patient relationship is paternalism. Doctors are the medical experts; most patients have little, if any, reliable medical knowledge; implicit trust in one’s physician is essential to the healing process; and doctors have the responsibility for our health and therefore have the duty to make all the important medical decisions.” Critically assess that claim.

The issue of doctor patient relationships has become more and more prevalent in our world today. It is hard to draw a clear line in deciding what the appropriate roles are of both the patient and the medical professional. The claim that the paternalistic
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Finally, the third alternative to the paternalistic model is the contractual model. This model is similar to paternalism, in that it questions the assumptions of equality, however it differs in that there is a “contract” between both parties, leaving each with their own dignity and moral authority. What is crucial about this model is that it does not neglect the fact that there is an obvious difference in the degree of knowledge between the patient and the physician. Instead of focusing on that discrepancy, the model concentrates on the agreement between the two parties to exchange goods and services and the enforcement of that by government sanctions. In other words, this model compromises between partnership and the reality of medical care, and according to Veatch, is the only realistic way to share all responsibility, while protecting various parties in health care. For example, both parties are freely entering this contract, and therefore are both given the right to leave it, given proper notice. However, while partaking in the contract, there are duties and obligations of each, which may neglect virtues of benevolence, care and compassion, which we do see stressed in other models.

Leaving aside the three alternatives to the paternalistic model, there are several other arguments, which come to surface, when critically assessing the above-mentioned claim. The first is that doctors must act like parents because patients know much less than doctors do.

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