Anatomy and Atrophy of Medical Paternalism

23 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2018

See all articles by Eric Toppol

Eric Toppol

The Scripps Research Institute - The Scripps Research Institute California

Robert F. Graboyes

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Date Written: 07/06/2017

Abstract

Since Ancient Greece, a guiding principle of Western medicine has been paternalism—the 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 doctor’s 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.

Suggested Citation

Toppol, Eric and Graboyes, Robert F., Anatomy and Atrophy of Medical Paternalism (07/06/2017). MERCATUS RESEARCH. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3191489 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3191489

Eric Toppol (Contact Author)

The Scripps Research Institute - The Scripps Research Institute California

Robert F. Graboyes

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd. 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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