Anatomy and Atrophy of Medical Paternalism
23 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2018
Date Written: 07/06/2017
Since Ancient Greece, a guiding principle of Western medicine has been paternalismthe idea that doctors have intrinsically superior insights, patients should defer to their edicts, and this asymmetry is a desirable state of affairs. In the 20th century, new medical knowledge and technologies accumulated at an unprecedented rate, and medical paternalism arguably reached its zenith. Now, however, new technologies are eroding the doctors privileged role by deconstructing, digitizing, and democratizing medical knowledge. Digital technologies and other breakthroughs offer unprecedented opportunities to save lives and cut costs. Along with self-interest, however, selective strains of risk aversion, technophobia, and egalitarianism among physicians are generating resistance to the new reality. This article catalogs the motives for and impact of medical paternalism, the reasons for its decline, and potential policy responses that would ease the transition.
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