Subsequent Consent and Blameworthiness

Subsequent Consent and Blameworthiness
Jason Chen
HEC Forum, 28 March 2020
Informed consent is normally understood as something that a patient gives prior to a medical intervention that can render it morally permissible. Whether or not it must be given prior to the intervention is debated. Some have argued that subsequent consent-that is, consent given after a medical intervention-can also render an otherwise impermissible act permissible. If so, then a patient may give her consent to an intervention that has already been performed and thereby justify a physician’s (paternalistic) act retroactively. The purpose of this paper is to argue that even if subsequent consent can render an otherwise impermissible act permissible, doctors are still blameworthy if they rely on it when prior consent could be given, because they would be banking on the justification of their interventions. Since doctors can only guess if patients will consent after the fact, they would be placing their patients at unreasonable risk of being disrespected as persons.

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