Paternalism, Consent, and the Use of Experimental Drugs in the Military

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 33 (4):337-355 (2008)
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Modern military organizations are paternalistic organizations. They typically recognize a duty of care toward military personnel and are willing to ignore or violate the consent of military personnel in order to uphold that duty of care. In this paper, we consider the case for paternalism in the military and distinguish it from the case for paternalism in medicine. We argue that one can consistently reject paternalism in medicine but uphold paternalism in the military. We consider two well-known arguments for the conclusion that military organizations should not be entitled to use experimental drugs on troops without first obtaining the informed consent of those troops. We argue that both of these are unsuccessful, in the absence of an argument for the rejection of paternalism in the military altogether. The case for military paternalism is widely accepted. However, we consider three ways in which it could be challenged
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