HLO looks at foundation of bioethics

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Dr. Laurence B. McCullough of Baylor College of Medicine and a panel of Law Center students discussed the premise of his upcoming article that contends bioethics was founded on a basic misperception.

The discussion, “Bioethics: Founded on a Mistake about Medical Paternalism,” centered on McCullough’s hypothesis that the tradition of medical paternalism, in which the doctor knew best and patients were to be left in the dark, did little for the good of the patient – and may have benefitted only the doctor. “It wasn’t paternalism” he said, “it was paternalistic.”  In past years, there was little disclosure of information and patients were simply expected to trust their doctor without question.  McCullough asserts that the case for physician paternalism has been greatly overstated historically, and that basing medical ethics on the assumption of paternalism has been detrimental to the law and practice of medicine.

Panelist Amy Lecocq, a Health Law LL.M. student, suggested the relatively new practice of “informed consent,” which changed the doctor-patient relationship, is not static but instead “lives and breathes.”  The doctor’s responsibility toward a patient changes according to social and professional guidelines, she said. Fellow panelist Robin Weinburgh, 3L, said the “paternalism of old” essentially showed a lack of respect for the patient.  He agreed with Lecocq’s contention that the doctor-patient relationship cannot be defined in black and white.

McCullough is associate director for Education and holder of the Dalton Tomlin Chair in Medical Ethics and Health Policy in the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor, where he is also professor of Medicine and Medical Ethics.

Dr. Laurence B. McCullough Panelists
Dr. Laurence B. McCullough of Baylor College of Medicine maintains bioethics was founded on a mistake about the tradition of medical paternalism. A student panel of Amy Lecocq, a Health Law L.L.M. student, Robin Weinburgh, 3L, (center), and Brian Wittpenn, 1L, had some issues with the premise of Dr. McCullough’s upcoming article.

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