When open-ended questions don't work: the role of palliative paternalism in difficult medical decisions

J Palliat Med. 2014 Apr;17(4):415-20. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2013.0408. Epub 2014 Mar 3.


Abstract The balance between patient autonomy and medical paternalism must be reexamined. The tension between autonomy and paternalism is both an ethical and practical issue. Autonomy is the current gold standard approach to patient communication and has grown to the point that patient preference dictates care, even when their choices are not possible or are medically nonbeneficial. Furthermore, we have observed a trend among physicians to avoid making difficult medical decisions by hiding behind a shield of patient autonomy. Paternalism, characterized as the antithesis of autonomy, is widely dismissed as having any role in medicine. We disagree and believe that paternalism still has an important role in medical decision making.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Islam
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / therapy
  • Liver Diseases / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Paternalism*
  • Patient Preference / psychology*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States