Substituted judgment, procreative beneficence, and the Ashley treatment

Journal of Medical Ethics 41 (9):721-722 (2015)
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It is commonly thought that when a patient is unable to make a treatment decision for herself, patient autonomy should be respected by consulting the views of a patient surrogate, normally either the next-of-kin or a person previously designated by the patient. On one view, the task of this surrogate is to make the treatment decision that the patient would have made if competent. But this so-called ‘substituted judgment standard’ (SJS) has come in for has come in for a good deal of criticism recently. For instance, some question whether surrogates are able to reliably predict what the patient would have chosen. Others wonder how respecting a patient's counter-factual, rather than actual, choices is supposed to respect her autonomy. Such concerns have lead some to reject the SJS and argue for alternative characterisations of the role of surrogate decision-makers.



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Thomas Douglas
Oxford University