Race, Religion, and Informed Consent: Lessons from Social Science
Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2008
25 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2008
Patients belonging to ethnic, racial, and religious minorities have been all but excluded from the legal academy's on-going conversation about informed consent. This article repairs that egregious omission. It begins by observing the narrowing of ethical justifications that underlie our informed consent law, tracing the ethical literature from the ancients to modern formulations of autonomy-centered models. Next, this article reviews the vast body of empirical data available in social science literature, that demonstrates how distinct from the autonomy model the broad range of values and priorities held by patients from racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups is. The conclusion that informed consent's focus on the western notion of autonomy affirmatively harms minority patients is inescapable. The article concludes by offering a fiduciary model of informed consent law that could improve the quality of health care for more than 100 million minority patients, potentially at risk under current law while also regulating the informed consent procedure and practice in a way that will bring balance and justice to all American patients and providers.
Keywords: informed consent, race, religion, ethnicity, medical decision-making, physician disclosure, autonomy
JEL Classification: I10, K32, Z00, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation