Recognizing the Right Not to Know: Conceptual, Professional, and Legal Implications

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 42 (1):53-63 (2014)
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The right not to know is a contested matter. This can be because the inversion of the normal framing of entitlement to information about one's own health is thought to be illogical and inconsistent with self-authorship and/or because the very idea of claiming a right not to know information is an inappropriate appeal to the discourse of rights that places impossible responsibilities on others. Notwithstanding, there has been a sustained increase in this kind of appeal in recent years fueled in large part by the rise and rise of the importance of personal autonomy in health care ethics, and by domestic and international health law. The right not to know has been acknowledged in at least two important international legal instruments. For example, the UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, Article 5c provides: “The right of every individual to decide whether or not to be informed of the results of genetic examination and the resulting consequences should be respected.”



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