As part of a larger series addressing the intersection of law and medicine, this essay is the first of two introductory pieces. This article explores the nature of the physician-patient relationship and of the practice of medicine dating from the Hippocratic tradition to the end of the 19th century, a period during which a beneficence-based medical ethic remained relatively stable. The medical literature dating from the Hippocratic texts to the early codes of the American Medical Association did not include a meaningful role for the patient in the decision-making process. In fact, the practice of benevolent deception--the deliberate withholding of any information thought by the physician to be detrimental to the patient's prognosis--was encouraged. However, as philosophers identified an inherent value in respecting patient self-determination and the law imposed a duty on physicians to obtain informed consent, 2,400 years of relative stability under the beneficence model gave way to the autonomy model.