Modern medical ethics are built upon the concept of informed consent. This is not, however, as straightforward a concept as it may seem.
Physicians and health care providers have a duty to provide informed consent to their patients or their patients’ guardians, which means that they have to inform them appropriately about the risks and benefits of their recommendations and interventions. This includes informing them about the risks of not treating an illness.
This principle is, in turn, based largely upon the principle of autonomy – people have the right to control their own lives, and one cannot have control without information.
This is all simple enough, but where it becomes tricky is in deciding how much information to give patients, and how to present it. (more…)