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Hastings Law Journal

Authors

Judith F. Daar

Abstract

Advances in medical science and technology have enabled physicians to effectively sustain patients' biological existence without curing or relieving their underlying illnesses. In some cases, physicians may perceive the application of these advances as medically futile or inappropriate. However, the jurisprudence of medical decision making has focused on patient autonomy, often giving patients the right to demand whatever treatments are available, regardless of cost, prognosis, and the advice of their physician.

Professor Daar examines the role a physician's professional conscience plays in the jurisprudence of medical decision making. After criticizing the courts' inconsistent response to a physician's assertion of professional conscience, she turns to an examination of legislative responses to patient-physician conflict in the context of abortion refusal statutes, which recognize and protect the exercise of a physician's professional conscience. She argues that our jurisprudence should offer this protection for physician autonomy in a wider clinical setting. Professor Daar concludes with a proposal, adapted from a model currently in place to resolve conflicts between attorneys and their clients, to resolve patient-physician conflicts without denigrating either the patient's autonomy or the physician's professional conscience.

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