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Article
Medical Paternalism and the Rule of Law: A Reply to Dr. Relman
American Journal of Law and Medicine (1979)
  • Charles H. Baron, Boston College Law School
Abstract
In this Article, Professor Baron challenges the position taken recently by Dr. Arnold Relman in this journal that the 1977 Saikewicz decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts was incorrect in calling for routine judicial resolution of decisions whether to provide life-prolonging treatment to terminally ill incompetent patients. First, Professor Baron argues that Dr. Relman's position that doctors should make such decisions is based upon an outmoded, paternalistic view of the doctor-patient relationship. Second, he points out the importance of guaranteeing to such decisions the special qualities of process which characterize decision making by courts and which are not present when such decisions are made by doctors. Finally, he argues that Dr. Relman has overestimated the social costs of bringing Saikewicz-type cases before the courts and that those costs which are inevitable are more than offset by the qualities of process that the court system can offer in such matters.
Keywords
  • Saikewicz decision,
  • Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts,
  • terminal illness,
  • patient competency,
  • life-prolonging medical treatment,
  • doctor-patient relationship,
  • medical costs,
  • medical law and procedure
Publication Date
Winter 1979
Citation Information
Charles H. Baron. "Medical Paternalism and the Rule of Law: A Reply to Dr. Relman" American Journal of Law and Medicine Vol. 4 (1979)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/charles_baron/12/