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This paper argues that doctors ought to make all things considered value judgments about what is best for their patients. It illustrates some of the shortcomings of the model of doctor as 'fact-provider'. The 'fact-provider' model fails to take account of the fact that practising medicine necessarily involves making value judgments; that medical practice is a moral practice and requires that doctors reflect on what ought to be done, and that patients can make choices which fail to express their autonomy and which are based on mistaken judgments of value. If doctors are properly to respect patient autonomy and to function as moral agents, they must make evaluations of what their patients ought to do, all things considered. This paper argues for 'rational, non-interventional paternalism'. This is a practice in which doctors form conceptions of what is best for their patients and argue rationally with them. It differs from old-style paternalism in that it is not committed to doing what is best.

Original publication




Journal article


J Med Ethics

Publication Date





327 - 331


Analytical Approach, Professional Patient Relationship, Choice Behavior, Decision Making, Disclosure, Ethics, Medical, Judgment, Morals, Paternalism, Patient Participation, Personal Autonomy, Physician's Role, Physician-Patient Relations, Risk Assessment, Social Values