Consent: Historical Perspectives in Medical Ethics

In Andreas Müller & Peter Schaber (eds.), Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Consent. London: Routledge. pp. 261-271 (2018)
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This chapter provides an outline of consent in the history of medical ethics. In doing so, it ranges over attitudes towards consent in medicine in ancient Greece, medieval Europe and the Middle East, as well as the history of Western law and medical ethics from the early modern period onwards. It considers the relationship between consent and both the disclosure of information to patients and the need to indemnify physicians, while attempting to avoid an anachronistic projection of concern with patient autonomy too far back into the historical record. The chapter also includes a survey of the development of the social and intellectual infrastructure that underpins modern medical consent. It concludes with a brief discussion of possible future directions for ethical approaches to medical consent and competence that would depart from the models that arose in the twentieth-century.

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Tom O'Shea
University of Edinburgh


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