Medical Ethics Darin Harootunian 11/2/11 1 Mill and the Harm Principle – An Introduction to the Principle of Respect for Autonomy Before considering Mill’s Harm Principle, let’s consider a passage from the paper “On Telling Patients the Truth,” by Roger H iggs. The passage that I have in mind nicely captures the issues that we will be discussing: The principle of beneficence – to work for the patient’s good – and the related principle of non-malfeasance – ‘first do no harm’ – are usually quoted as the central guiding virtues in medicine. They are expanded in the codes, and underlie the appeal of utilitarian arguments in the context of health care. ‘When you are thinking of telling a lie,’ Richard Cabot quotes a teacher of his as saying, ‘ask yourself whether it is simply and solely for the patient’s benefit that you are going to tell it. If you are sure you are acting for his good and not for your profit, you can go ahead with a clear conscience.’ But who should decide what is ‘for the patient’s benefit’? Why should it be the doctor? Increasingly society is uneasy with such a paternalistic style. In most other walks of life, the competent individual himself is assumed to be the best judge of his own interests. Whatever may be thought of this assumption in the field of politics or law, to make
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This note was uploaded on 11/07/2011 for the course PHIL 164 taught by Professor Doviak during the Fall '07 term at UMass (Amherst).