When Patients, Families Disagree on Treatment

Timothy M. Smith | American Medical Association | Dec 20, 2018

Patient autonomy has traditionally been one of the most prominent principles of American medical ethics, but often patients don’t make decisions about their care alone. Some choose to involve family members, even sometimes allowing the family’s desires to supersede their own.

Respecting autonomy necessarily means respecting patients’ decisions. Physicians can engage patients about decision-making in ways that are inclusive of family input, and help consider possible roles of surrogate decision-makers for patients who do not have decision-making capacity.

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