Paternalism and autonomy are typically conceptualized as opposing theoretical frameworks. With respect to medical ethics, autonomy is practiced by the patient when he/she has liberty and control over his/her own medical matters, and his/her opinions supersede those of the physician. Paternalism is practiced by the physician when he/she restricts the patient’s autonomy (sometimes against the patient’s will) to promote health and well-being while discouraging undesirable behaviors. This paper details and analyzes a number of cases of medical paternalism in practice, both from the past and in the present day, with the purpose of examining associated ethical considerations. Attention is given to paternalistic cases regarding the mentally ill, and regarding Croatia as it undergoes political, economic, and technological changes. Ultimately, it is theorized that both complete autonomy and complete paternalism are unethical in medical practice because following one of these frameworks exclusively often leads to neglect of critical ethical concepts such as informed consent and shared decision-making. This paper also refutes the notion that paternalism and autonomy are opposing frameworks; it argues that the frameworks are instead complimentary to one another in medical ethics.
Holcomb, Lola, "Ethical Considerations Regarding Paternalism in Medicine" (2020). Richard T. Schellhase Essay Prize in Ethics. 18.