A Common Law Duty to Disclose Conscience-Based Limitations on Medical Practice
Chapter 13 in Law, Religion, and Health in the United States (Lynch, Holly Fernandez, I. Glenn Cohen, and Elizabeth Sepper eds., 2017)
10 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 14, 2017
The legal doctrine of informed consent is broad enough to encompass a physician’s duty to disclose conscience-based limitations on medical practice. In some jurisdictions, physicians are legally obligated to disclose personal characteristics that may affect the risks of treatment or the patient’s choice of provider, as well as personal conflicts that may affect their exercise of medical judgment. Both these concerns are implicated in situations where a physician is limited in the type of treatments he is able to offer as a result of personal beliefs or institutional limitations. Judicial recognition of such a common law duty would ensure that patients have the information they need to exercise their right to decide what care they receive and from whom, and would reduce the incidence of adverse health outcomes resulting from conscience-based care refusals.
Keywords: informed consent, tort law, conscience, disclosure, Catholic hospitals, emergency contraception, abortion, tubal ligation
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