Reconsidering surrogate decision making: Aristotelianism and confucianism on ideal human relations

Philosophy East and West 52 (3):346-372 (2002)


The rise in the recent Western pattern of surrogate decision making is not a necessary result of an increase in the number of elderly with decreased competence; it may rather manifest the dominant Western vision of human life and relations. From a comparative philosophical standpoint, the Western pattern of medical decision making is individualistic, while the Chinese is familistic. These two distinct patterns may reflect two different comprehensive perspectives on human life and relations, disclosing a foundational difference that can be seen in the Aristotelian account of friendship and the Confucian account of humanity. The contemporary development of surrogate decision making in the West may illustrate a general tendency toward the Aristotelian account, while the Chinese approaches are congruent with the Confucian view. Also explored are some merits of the Chinese approach to family decision making for health care

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Ruiping Fan
City University of Hong Kong

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