A Reexamination of Hard Paternalism

Thaddeus Mason Pope

Hamline University - School of Law; Australian Health Law Research Center, QUT

September 22, 2000

Autonomy, the preeminent value in bioethics since the 1970s, has come under increasing attack in recent years. One outcome of this attack is that many bioethicists now recognize that the presumption in favor of autonomy can be rebutted for hard paternalistic reasons, at least under some circumstances. Unfortunately, bioethicists have failed to specify those circumstances.

Yet, this failure is understandable. There is a conceptual obstacle to establishing systematic criteria for the justifiability of hard paternalism: there is no adequate definition of hard paternalism. If we aren't clear about which acts are correctly described as hard paternalistic acts, then we cannot coherently morally assess hard paternalism.

In this paper, I address this problem, offering a comprehensive definition of hard paternalism. Specifically, I argue that six factors must be considered. (1) Presently, hard paternalism is typically defined only in terms of whether the subject's conduct is substantially autonomous. Thus, if the subject acts substantially free from cognitive and volitional defects, then interference with her action is hard paternalism. But hard paternalism must also be defined in terms of: (2) the identity of the paternalistic agent and the agent's relationship to the subject, (3) the motive of the paternalistic agent in restricting the subject, (4) the manner in which the agent restricts the subject, (5) the nature of the subject's restricted conduct, and (6) the importance of the restricted conduct to the subject.

Keywords: autonomy, paternalism, bioethics

JEL Classification: I18, K10, K32

Not Available For Download

Date posted: February 14, 2001  

Suggested Citation

Pope, Thaddeus Mason, A Reexamination of Hard Paternalism (September 22, 2000). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=257632

Contact Information

Thaddeus Mason Pope (Contact Author)
Hamline University - School of Law ( email )
1536 Hewitt Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104-1237
United States
651-523-2519 (Phone)
901-202-7549 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: www.thaddeuspope.com
Australian Health Law Research Center, QUT ( email )
GPO Box 2434
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 685

© 2015 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo5 in 0.281 seconds