Alan Goldman’s piece, ‘A Refutation of Medical Paternalism’, contains an argument for why medical paternalism is wrong. Goldman argues from the idea of ‘The Relativity of Value.’ Explain this particular argument and show how it is an argument against medical paternalism (be sure to first define what medical paternalism is). Do you think this argument is correct? Why or why not?
In biomedical ethics, the concept of patient autonomy versus is a huge consideration. This autonomy is often contrasted with what is called medical paternalism. Medical paternalism refers to physicians acting in regards to what they feel is best for the patient without much regard to the patient’s true wishes. It is the intervention of an individual’s right of action justified by reasons referring to the welfare and/or interest of that individual. While medical paternalism may be seen as positive, many refute it. In Goldman’s paper, “A Refutation of Medical Paternalism,” he talks about why medical paternalism is wrong.
Goldman refutes medical paternalism by introducing various arguments that support his case. One aspect of his argument lies in the following claim regarding the relativity of values: “The fundamental faulty premise in the argument for paternalistic role differentiation for doctors is that which assumes that health or prolonged life must take absolute priority in the patient’s value orderings” (67). Goldman states that in reality, individuals do not consistently act in order to minimize loss of life although the long-term preference is to live long. If individuals did prioritize minimum loss of life constantly, all efforts would be strictly directed towards health-related areas. This is not the case, for “to realize or preserve those values that give meaning to life is worth the risk of life itself” (68). Therefore, Goldman states that it is illogical for a doctor to determine what is best for the patient when such doctor cannot speak for what the patient’s set of...
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