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Kettle, Nancy M.
Informed consent: its origins, purpose, problems, and limits
h [electronic resource] /
by Nancy M. Kettle.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2002.
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ABSTRACT: The doctrine of informed consent, defined as respect for autonomy, is the tool used to govern the relationship between physicians and patients. Its framework relies on rights and duties that mark these relationships. The main purpose of informed consent is to promote human rights and dignity. Some researchers claim that informed consent has successfully replaced patients historical predispositions to accept physicians' advice without much explicit resistance.Although the doctrine of informed consent promotes ideals worth pursuing, a successful implementation of these ideals in practice has yet to occur. What has happened in practice is that attorneys, physicians, and hospital administrators often use consent forms mainly to protect physicians and medical facilities from liability. Consequently, ethicists, legal theorists, and physicians need to do much more to explain how human rights and human dignity relate to the practice of medicine and how the professionals can promote them in practice.This is especially important because patients' vulnerability has increased just as the complexity and power of medical science and technology have increased. Certain health care practices can shed light on the difficulties of implementing the doctrine of informed consent and explain why it is insufficient to protect patients' rights and dignity. Defining a normal biological event as a disease, and routinely prescribing hormone drug therapy to menopausal women for all health conditions related to menopause, does not meet the standards of free informed consent.Clinicians provide insufficient disclosure about risks related to long-term use of hormone therapies and about the absence of solid evidence to support their bias toward hormone therapies as a treatment of choice for menopause related health conditions. The contributing problem is women's failure to act as autonomous agents because they either choose not to take an active part in their own therapy or because they fear to question physicians' medical authority. To insure that patients' autonomy and free choice are a part of every physician-patient interaction, physicians and patients need actively to promote them as values that are absolutely indispensable in physicians' offices, clinics, and hospitals.
Adviser: Truitt, Willis H.
Informed consent (Medical law)
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Informed Consent: Its Origin, Purpose, Problems, and Limits Nancy M. Kettle Master Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the University of South Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy Willis H. Truitt, Chair Bruce S. Silver Joanne B. Waugh August 19, 2002 Tampa, Florida Keywords: Rights, Autonomy, Beneficence, Menopause, Hormone Therapy Copyright 2002, Nancy M. Kettle
Table of Contents Abstract iii Introduction: The Importance of Informed Consent 1 Historical and Philosophical Development of Rights in Terms of Moral Theory 7 Natural Law and Rights Theory of Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke 9 Grotius 10 Hobbes 17 Locke 22 Kants Theory of Autonomy and Absolute Worth 29 Political Documents 38 International Human Rights Documents 40 A Theory of Informed Consent 43 Main Moral Principles Regarding Informed Consent 44 Respect for Autonomy 45 The Nature of Autonomy 46 Autonomy and Informed Consent Connection 48 Discerning Between Persons and Actions 48 Degrees of Autonomous Action 49 Substantially Autonomous Actions 50 Beneficence 50 Paternalism 52 Moral Issues Regarding Medical Paternalism 53 Weak and Strong Paternalism 54 Justification of Paternalism and Antipaternalism 55 Legal Theory of Informed Consent 56 The Meaning and Elements of Moral Theory of Informed Consent 59 Disclosure 62 The Professional Practice Standard 63 The Reasonable Person Standard 64 The Subjective Standard 65 Intentional Nondisclosure 67 i Understanding 68
Problems of Information Processing 71 Problems of Nonacceptance and False Belief 72 The problem of waivers 73 Voluntariness and Forms of Influence 74 Coercion 75 Persuasion 75 Manipulation 76 Historical and Scientific Background of Human Hormones 80 Definition and Functions of Hormones 84 Amino Acids 86 Steroid Hormones 87 Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) 88 Empirical Basis for Prescribing HRT 97 Positive Effects of HRT 100 Negative Effects of HRT 102 Profits and Menopause 103 The Problems and the Limits of Informed Consent in Practice 106 Informed Consent and the Physician-Patient Relationship 106 Informed Consent and HRT Regimens 118 Insufficient Disclosure 118 Inadequate Understanding 123 Informational Manipulation 130 Conclusion and Epilogue 136 Consequences and Future Trends 137 Epilogue 137 References 143 Bibliography 150 ii
iii Informed Consent: Its Origins, Purpose, Problems, and Limits Nancy M. Kettle (Abstract) The doctrine of informed consent, defined as respect for autonomy, is the tool used to govern the relationship between physicians and patients. Its framework relies on rights and duties that mark these relationships. The main pu rpose of informed consent is to promote human rights and dignity. Some researchers claim that informed consent has successfully replaced patients historical predispositions to accept physici ans advice without much explicit resistance. Although the doctrine of informed consent promotes ideals worth pursuing, a successful implementation of these ideals in practice has yet to occur. What has happened in pr actice is that attorneys, physicians, and hospital administrators often use consent forms mainly to protect physicians and medical facilities from liability. Consequently, et hicists, legal theorists, and physicians need to do much more to explain how human rights and human dignity relate to the practice of medicine and how the professionals can promote them in practice. This is especially important because patients' vulnerability has increased just as the complexity and power of medical science and technology have increased. Certain health car e practices can shed light on the difficulties of implementing the doctrine of informed consent and explain why it is insufficient to protect pati ents rights and dignity. Defining a normal biological event as a disease, and routinely prescribing hormone drug therapy to menopausal women for all health conditions related to menopause, does not meet the standards of free informed consent. Clinicians pr ovide insufficient disclosu re about risks related to long-term use of hormone therapies and about the absence of solid evidence to support their bias toward hormone therapies as a treatment of choice for menopause related health conditions. The contributing problem is women' s failure to act as autonomous agents because they either
iv choose not to take an active part in their own th erapy or because they fear to question physicians' medical authority. To insure that patients' autonomy and free choice are a part of every physician-patient interaction, physicians and patients need actively to promote them as values that are absolutely indispensable in phys icians' offices, clinics, and hospitals.
Chapter 1 Introduction: The Importance of Informed Consent Serious violations of our basic rights and human dignity occur in settings where we expect others to honor the ideal of human rights. Physicians sworn to uphold the Hippocratic Oath of preventing harm and healing the sick fail to respect human rights to justify some sort of ill-conceived experiment or medical practice. The potential for scientific abuse became apparent during the Nuremberg trials of Nazi scientists in the late 1940s, which revealed horrifying instances of medical experiments in concentration camps. As a result of those trials, the notion of the informed consent was born. Some (Beauchamp, Childress, Faden) define informed consent as autonomous authorization, which relies on the principle of respect for autonomy or autonomy as self-governance. Others (Katz, Moreno) define informed consent as the right to self-determination, which is "a legal equivalent of the moral principle of respect for autonomy." 1 The right to self-determination refers to the right of individuals to make their own decisions without interference from others. 2 Some define autonomy the same way. Both definitions rely on the principle of autonomy, which Immanuel Kant envisioned as the capacity for rational action and the supreme principle of morality. 3 For the purpose of this thesis I will rely on the definition of informed consent as respect for autonomy. Although the doctrine of informed consent is a relatively recent legal and philosophical concept, it governs the relationship between physicians and patients. 4 Its framework relies on rights and duties that mark these relationships, in the United States in particular. 5 The main 1 Ruth R. Faden, and Tom L. Beauchamp, A History and Theory of Informed Consent (New York: Oxford UP, 1986) 120. 2 Jay Katz, The Silent World of Doctor and Patient (New York: Free Press, 1984) 105. 3 Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. James W. Ellington, 1785 (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981) 44, Ak. 440. 4 Tomoo Tajima, "Informed Consent for Patients with Advanced Cancer," The Tokai Journal of Experimental and Clinical Medicine 22.6 (1997): 271. 5 Jonathan D. Moreno, et al., "Informed Consent," Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, ed. Ruth Chadwick, vol. 2 (San Diego: Academic Press, 1998) 687-88. 1
2 purpose of informed consent is to promote human rights and dignity. 6 Some researchers claim that informed consent has successfully replaced patients historical predispositions to accept physicians advice without much explicit resistance. 7 Although the doctrine of informed consent promotes the ideals worth pursuing, a successful implementation of those ideals in practice has yet to occur. What has happened in practice is that at torneys, physicians, and hospital administrators often use consent forms mainly to protect physicians and medical facilities from financial liability. 8 Consequently, ethicists need to do mu ch more to explain how human rights and human dignity relate to the practice of medi cine and how the professionals in the field can promote them in practice. This is especially important becau se the constantly increasing complexity of power of medical science and technology has increased the patients vulnerability. 9 Certain health care practices can shed light on the difficulties of implementing the doctrine of informed consent and why it does not sufficiently protect patients rights and dignity. Until very recently, there was a continuous, routine medical practice of the almost indiscriminate prescribing of hormone replacem ent therapies (HRT) to menopausal women. This practice might change because new, more reliable evidence from long-term randomized clinical trials, warns against it. Medical professionals ha ve promoted HRT therapy as safe, before the completion of any long-term randomized controlled studies that could substantiate this claim. New reports, one published in the Journal of American Medi cal Association (JAMA) on July 17, 2002, and another, which National Institutes of Health (NIH) are to issue sometime in 2002, 10 offer a radically different view of the benefits of HRT regimens. The JAMA article reports that the review panel of the Women' s Health Initiative (WHI), a major federal study of hormone replacement therapy that the NIH oversee, abruptly halted the set of randomized controlled trials 6 Tajima, "Informed" 271. 7 Moreno, "Informed Consent" 688. 8 Tajima, "Informed" 271. 9 Francis P. Crawley, "Ethics Committees and Info rmed Consent: Locating Responsibility in Clinical Trials," The Tokai Journal of Experimental and Clinical Medicine 22.6 (1997): 259. 10 The NIH originally planne d to release its report, International Position Paper on Womens Health and Menopause : A Comprehensive Approach in June 2002. In March 2002 NIH released to the press only chapter 13, Best Medical Practices. This chapter specifies new guid elines regarding hormone replacement therapies. Given that the NIH conducts the Women's Health Initiative study, it is possible that it delayed the release of the International Position Paper on Womens Health and Menopause to include the information reported in JAMA.
3 of combined estrogen and progestin in women with a uterus. A planned duration of this segment, which included 16,608 postmenopausal women aged 50-79 with an intact uterus, was 8.5 years, but the review panel discontinued it after 5.2 y ears because these drugs create an unacceptable risk for heart disease, breast cancer, strokes, and blood clots. The review panel concluded that Overall health risks exceeded benefits from us e of combined estrogen plus progestin . The risk-benefit profile found in this trial is not consistent with the requirements for a viable intervention of chronic diseases, and the results indicate that this regimen should not be initiated or continued for primary preventi on of coronary heart disease. 11 This is a radical departure from a previous position of the medical establis hment, which recommended HRT to menopausal women as a preventive measure agai nst heart disease and osteoporosis. Although women appeared to be consenting to t hose therapies, they were reluctant to fill the prescriptions once they le ft their physicians office. Th eir discontinuation of the HRT therapies within a year once they start HRT ther apy suggested that their consent is not genuine. Even though physicians addressed some of these women's concerns they could not meaningfully address all of them. The information on the risk s and benefits of HRT was constantly changing, and there were no clear guidelines about who should or should not use these therapies. The problem began with the view of the medical esta blishment that menopause is a disease, a view which many women have not shared. These wome n viewed menopause as a natural process, a biological event in every woman's life that may or may not require medical intervention such as HRT. Still, women who saw physicians about me nopause problems had to decide whether to accept their physicians recommendation and take HRT for the rest of their lives to prevent the risk of conditions such as osteoporosis and h eart disease. HRT regimens were supposed to prevent osteoporosis and heart disease, but in some cases they can lead to other serious problems for women such as blood clots, endometrial can cer and breast cancer. As women had to decide what is right for them, i.e., whether or not to use HRT long-term, there were problems with proper implementation of informed consent as it had functioned or failed to function in medical practice generally. This was often the consequence of medical profe ssionals failure to 11 Women's Health Initiative Writing Group, "Risks and Benefits of Estrogen Plus Progestin in Healthy Postmenopausal Women. Principal Results From the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Trial,"
4 understand how human rights and dignity relate in the practice of medicine and how to promote them in practice. My aim is to show that the doctrine of inform ed consent, as practiced in the relationships between physicians and patients, often does not fu lfill its main purpose; i.e., it does not safeguard the interests, rights, a nd dignity of patients. This happens be cause of clinicians' scepticism about the existence of the right to informed consent, patients' disinclination to make decisions, the current nature of health care, and the absence of clear guidelines about implementing informed consent. I begin by examining the philosophical theory of rights in Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant, with sp ecial emphasis on Kants theory of autonomy, absolute worth, and human dignity. The purpose of this chapter is to trace the development of the notion of rights and dignity in moral theory from the seventeent h century when major philosophers assigned them the char acter they still have today, i.e., the position that every person possesses certain basic rights that they have si mply because they are human. I start with the seventeenth century natural law theories and then discuss Kants notion of morality as autonomy and respect for human dignity. I also examin e the important documents regarding rights, autonomy, and human dignity. These include the Declaration of Inde pendence (1776), the Bill of Rights (1789), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens (1789), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( 1948), and less famous documents such as the International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Righ ts (1966) and the Inte rnational Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (1966). Chapter three provides an account of the curren t theory of informed consent. It outlines the conceptual models of informed consent f ound in moral philosophy and law as they apply to health care. I start by discussing the principles of respect for au tonomy and beneficence, the two principles of moral philosophy that are particularly relevant to informed consent as it applies to clinical settings. Next, I provide an overview of the legal theory of informed consent, providing some remarks about its strengths and weakne sses. Third, I focus on the meaning and the elements of informed consent: competence, di sclosure, understanding, and voluntariness. Last, I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the philosophical model of informed consent. Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) 288.3 (July 17, 2002): 321.
5 In chapter four the focus is on historical background of hormone therapies to menopausal women to illustrate a case in which informed c onsent needs a more precise application. First, I discuss the need to provide the necessary scient ific background for a better understanding of the physiological aspects of menopause. Next, I descri be the standard definition of menopause and how the medical profession handled health problem s associated with menopause. Last, I show why some physicians, organizati ons, and women activists proposed an alternative view of menopause, one that is not strictly tied to physiology. In chapter five, I address the problems and lim its of informed consent in the medical field as a whole, in a physician-patient relationship, and in the prescription of hormone therapies to menopausal women. Physicians' resistance to inform ed consent, patients' disinclination to make decisions, and the assembly line qu ality of medical care, are majo r obstacles to the therapeutic patient-physician relationship and consequently to informed consent. To show how physicians' and patients' attitudes and other factors affect health care, I an alyze clinician's practice of the routine prescription of hormone replacement th erapy to menopausal women for treating all menopause related health conditions. I argue that in using this pa rticular practice, clinicians provide insufficient disclosure about the long-term risks of hormone therapy and about the absence of solid evidence to justify their pract ice of prescribing hormone therapies routinely. I also argue that physicians have failed to make sure that women had adequate understanding of menopause, in part because of their view that menopause is a disease. Finally, I argue that physicians' bias toward hormone therapy as well as their presenting information about hormone therapy as positive, led to informational ma nipulation, which influen ced womens perception, and very likely, their response. In chapter six I make some observations a bout what some philosophers believe it means to be human. Relying on Descar tes, Kant, and Emerson, I argue that philosophers often regard reason and will as defining characteristics of human beings. Given this view, human beings, as autonomous, can decide and choose for themselves. I also argue that to be truly autonomous, human beings must also trust themselves and their capacity to understand what serves and what impedes their own welfare. If for at least some important philosophers, possessing reason and will defines human beings, then something is amiss when in clinical setting patients fail to think and reason for
6 themselves. Granted, some physicians like authority and like to make decisions for patients. This is sometime necessary in emergency medical car e but not in ordinary interactions between physicians and patients. Physicians however, must realize that they have an obligation to help patients make autonomous choices because the success of the medical treatment depends on it. Moreover, both physicians and patients must real ize that autonomy is an inseparable part of being human and that both must respect and help develop it.
Chapter 2 Historical and Philosophical Development of Rights in Terms of Moral Theory Moral philosophy refers to philosophical theories, including reflection on the nature and function of morality, moral problems, and moral judgments. 1 Moral philosophy also focuses on moral codes, moral arguments, moral experiences, the moral consciousness, or the moral point of view. 2 The objective of moral philosophy is to enhance clarity, systematic order, and precision of argument in our thinking about morality. 3 Although the views about the meaning of morality differ, like law, religion, and social conventions, morality is a normative social practice that guides human conduct. 4 Philosophical writings in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries show broader focus of moral philosophy than current theories. They provide the study of the whole of human action undertaken with the hope of improving practice. 5 Up to that point the established conception of morality was that of obedience we owe to God. 6 Reason, revelation, and clergy elucidated Gods authority to us, but all of us do not have an equal ability to see what morality required us to do. 7 Consequently, even if the most basic laws of morality were in our conscience, most of us would 1 William K. Frankena, Ethics (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1973) 4; Tom L. Beauchamp, and James F. Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Fourth Edition (New York: Oxford UP, 1994) 5. 2 Frankena, Ethics 4. 3 Beauchamp, Biomedical 5. 4 Andrei Marmor, "On The Nature of Law," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Metaphysics Research Lab at the Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 2001, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/lawphil-nature/#2 (Jan. 19, 2002). 5 J.B. Schneewind, "Introduction," Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, ed. J.B. Schneewind (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 2. 6 J.B. Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 4. 7 Schneewind makes this important point here to differentiate morality as obligation from the later conception of morality such as Kants conception of morality as autonomy, and from the contemporary conception of morality, which assumes that ordinary or normal choosers are capable of knowing what morality requires of them and choose an appropriate action without guidance from others. Because Schneewind offers a historical and sustained discussion of morality as autonomy and of autonomy as self-governance, which serve as the foundation of this thesis, my reliance on him is necessarily substantive. 7
8 still need instruction from some authority about what is appropr iate in specific cases. Another characteristic of the obedience view is that mo st of us commonly do not comprehend the reasons for action that morality instructs us to take. Th reats of punishment and offers of reward are necessary to insure a sufficient compliance to maintain moral order. 8 The dominant view of morality in the seventeenth century is the na tural law view, beginning with Grotius (1583-1645) and ending with Locke (1632-1683). 9 The scientific revolution that dramatically broadened the knowledge in natural sciences such as physics, astronomy, mathematics and medicine, by discovering the laws of nature, created a fruitful intellectual environment that stimulated a belief that human reason could discove r natural law in human conduct. 10 In On the Law of War and Peace, Grotius argued that natural law, whether phys ical or moral, existed separately from authorities and political powers a nd served as means of evaluation of the laws and practices of governments. 11 Locke argued that all human beings posse ssed natural rights such as life, liberty, equality, and property, prior to the ex istence of any civil societies. Th e role of civil societies is to protect the natural rights of its members, not to suppress them. A theory of morality as selfgovernance became a self-conscious effort at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Concerns in a moral domain such as questions about th e basis and function of morality, and also in a political domain such as domination of coerci ve, absolutist governments, led to a concern among rising number of philosophers that the inherite d conceptions of morality did not allow for proper appreciation of human dignity. 12 By the end of the eighteenth century, a new view of morality arose, which focused on the belief that all normal individuals are equally ab le to live together in a morality of selfgovernance. 13 The moral philosophies of Thomas Rei d, Jeremy Bentham, and Immanuel Kant provided the normative belief about the dignity and worth of the indi vidual that led to conceptions of morality as self-governance. 14 According to this view we all have an equal 8 Schneewind, Invention 4. 9 Schneewind, Invention 11. 10 Paul G. Lauren, The Evolution of International Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998) 14. 11 Lauren, Evolution 14. 12 Schneewind, Invention 5. 13 Schneewind, Invention 4. 14 Schneewind, Invention 6.
9 ability to see for ourselves what morality calls for and are in pr inciple equally able to move ourselves to act accordin gly, regardless of threats or rewards from others. 15 The two points mentioned here, an equality in determining the demands of morality and self-motivating ability to meet those demands without fearing punishment or having expectations of rewards from others, gained wide acceptance in moral philosophy to the extent that most contemporary moral philosophy simply assumes them. 16 The significance of the notion of morality as self-governance is that it supplies a conceptual structure for a social space in which we may each rightly claim to direct our own action without in terference from the state, the church, the neighbors, or those claiming to be better or wiser than we. 17 Kant took the notion of selfgovernance to a revolutionary leve l. He maintained that we are self-governing beca use we are autonomous. 18 He meant that we alone legislate moral law by using our own will. It is the legislative characte ristic of the will that places us under moral law and permits everyone to accept moral law. His theory is a significant part of current philosophical ethics. 19 Moreover, the conception of morality as self-governance in early modern philosophy made a significant contribution to the em ergence of the Western liberal image of the correct relationships between individuals and society. 20 This image refers to the conception that a democratic society allows room for individuals to pursue their personal goals by assigning them certain rights and freedoms that others must respect. Natural Law and Rights Theory of Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke Natural law theory has been in flux since it s earliest known origin with the Stoics who believed in the life according to reason. They thought that universe gave human beings reason as 15 Schneewind, Invention 4. 16 Schneewind, Invention 4. 17 Schneewind, Invention 4. 18 Schneewind, Invention 6. 19 Thomas E. Jr. Hill, "Autonomy of Moral Agents," Encyclopedia of Ethics ed. Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker (New York: Ga rland, 1992) 71-72; Schneewind, Invention 6. 20 Schneewind, Invention 11; C.B. Macpherson, The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy (New York: Oxford, 1977) 1.
10 a distinguishing feature from other animals whos e nature is to act on impulse. Because humans are by nature rational beings, living according to reason means living according to the laws of nature. 21 Although the notion of right emerged from the Stoic philosophy of natural law and Roman philosophy of law, 22 it underwent major transformations in the seventeenth century with the influential writings of Grotius and Hobbes. Grotius was the first natural law thinker who offered a theory that natural laws were binding on moral agents independen tly of the existence of God. 23 He also proposed a new way of understand ing rights by claiming that all people have rights whether they belonged to any group and before being subject to any law. 24 Additionally, Grotius assignment of rights to individuals 25 introduced a new way of understanding the sphere of control belonging to individua ls that is still important. 26 Hobbes, on the other hand, solidly affirms the connection between the law of nature with the state of nature, as does Locke after him. 27 Grotius Grotius interest in natural law sprang from a problem that involved an international dispute that resulted after a Dutch sea captain captured a Portugese vessel as a prize. 28 A Dutch court decided that capturing a ship was just bu t the losing party objected to the courts decision on a religious basis and requested that Grotius write a defense. As a result Grotius wrote On the Law of Prize and Booty where he identified the problem in international relations, 29 which Schneewind calls The Grotian problematic, i.e ., that humans are by nature self-interested as 21 "Stoicism," Hellenistic Philosophy ed. Trans. Brad Inwood and L. P. Gerson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1988) 191. 22 Carl Wellman, "Concepts of Right," Encyclopedia of Ethics ed. Lawrence C. Becker (New York: Garland, 1992) 1100. 23 Schneewind, "Introduction" 88. 24 Schneewind, "Introduction" 89. 25 Hugo Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace. Trans. W. Kelsey. Oxford: Oxfo rd University Press, 1925., rpt. in Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant ed. J. B. Schneewind, 88-110 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 103, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 1. 26 Schneewind, "Introduction" 89. 27 Richard Wollheim, "Natural Law," ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan, 1967) 452. 28 Schneewind, Invention 70; Richard Tuck, "Grotius, Carneades, and Hobbes," Grotiana 4 (1983): 49.
11 well as sociable, resulting in controversies that disrupt social life. Gro tius contended that the effort to pass judgment regarding an internati onal dispute between fighting parties is futile, especially in wartime, if it is based solely on written law. 30 Another basis was necessary. Cicero and other ancient philo sophers claimed we have to appeal to the laws of nature, to the laws that come from the inmost heart of philosophy. 31 Grotius needed to find a position that would facilitate a reasonable settlement over a dispute over rights between warring parties of different religions. 32 Grotius had to consider two major issues to find a resolution to his dilemma. First, the skeptics views about politics limited law and justice to a single country, and made it impossible to settle international disputes peacefully. To make justice between nations possible, it was necessary to show that different nations could di scuss the notion of justice, and also to create principle-based limits to justif y war and prize taking. To accomp lish those aims, Grotius first needed to discredit the skepticism of his time, th e philosophical view that Michel de Montaigne and Pierre Charron advanced. 33 They believed that humans ought to live according to the rules and customs of the culture into which they are bo rn, and to accept only those principles that God chooses to reveal to them. Second, Grotius needed to transcend widely dive rgent religious views, which made it impossible to appeal to the Bible or to particular Christian doctrines such as Protestanism or Catholicism for assistance in re solving international dis putes. The impossibility of finding a standard for settli ng such disagreements is the so urce of strength for Pyrrhonian skepticism in the seventeenth century. 34 An openly atheistic morality also could not help resolve public disagreements (given the religious disposition of the time). The Thomist and Calvinist 29 Schneewind, Invention 70. 30 Hugo Grotius, On the Law of Prize and Booty (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950) 6, bk.1; Schneewind, Invention 70. 31 Grotius, Prize 7, bk.1; Schneewind, Invention 70. 32 Schneewind, Invention 70. 33 Schneewind, Invention 70; Richard H. Popkin, The History of Skepticism From Erasmus to Descartes (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1960) 44-65. 34 A theory that the evidence necessary to know whether any knowledge is possible is insufficient or inadequate. The Phyrronists withhold judgment on all situ ations in which the evidence is conflicting. They live in the world of appearances based on sense impressions and any other beliefs such as that nothing is certain. Richard H. Popkin, "Skeptics," The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy ed. Robert Audi (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 741-42; Schneewind, Invention 42-43. Academic skeptics like Carneades believe that no knowledge is possible. Popkin, History x; Popkin, "Skeptics" 741. Like other theorists during the seventeenth
12 doctrines also failed to provide the kind of help Grotius needed. 35 The setting was thus conducive for Grotius to invent a new theory of law to se ttle international disputes a theory that went beyond skepticism and beyond natural law theories of the time. On the Law of War and Peace 36 is the exposition of his ne w theory of natural law. Grotius focuses on the Greek philosopher Carneades, 37 who denied the existence of natural law and justice, to sketch and then refute skeptics views. 38 Carneades does not deny the existence of laws. His claim is that humans impose laws on themselves because it is advantageous for them to do so, and that these self-imposed laws vary according to the time period and customs. What Carneades denies, according to Grotius, is the existence of natural laws (laws based on common or unive rsal traits of human nature) because he thinks that human nature is such that they gravitate toward ends that benefit them. Carnead es thus concludes that justice is nonexistent because humans would vi olate their own interest s if they concerned themselves with the needs of others. 39 To refute the skeptics, Grotius first argues th at human beings differ from other animals in that they have specific traits that belong only to them, namely sociability and intelligence. 40 Given those traits, humans want a peaceful soci al life with other hum ans, which they can organize according to the level of intelligence they possess. This sociability characteristic, which Stoics named sociableness, and whic h Grotius views as a universal truth, 41 offers a view of humans as more than just self-interested. 42 Grotius shows them to be capable of altruism, of caring for others as well as themselves. He ar gues that other animals and children, as well as mature people, are predisposed to helping others in addition to helping themselves. 43 Many century, Grotius did not differentiate between different types of skepticism. Schneewind, Invention 71. 35 Schneewind, Invention 71. 36 From here on cited as Law 37 Carneades (c. 213-128 B.C.), a Greek philosopher during the Hellenistic period, developed skeptical arguments against the Epicureans and the Stoics during his tenure as the head of the Platonic Academy Schneewind, "Introduction" 109. 38 Grotius, Law 90, prolegomena, sec. 5. 39 Grotius, Law 90, prolegomena, sec. 5. 40 Grotius, Law 91, prolegomena, sec. 6. 41 Grotius offers an empiricist conception of a universal truth. For him something as universally valid if it holds true at various times and in various places Grotius, Law 94, prolegomena, sec. 40. 42 Grotius, Law 91, prolegomena, sec. 6. 43 Grotius, Law 91, prolegomena, sec. 7.
13 animals, for instance, take care of their offspr ing and other animals of their species. Grotius attributes this conduct to some external rational principle beca use animals do not act the same way in similar situations that require the same degree of intelligence. Children, Grotius argues, spontaneously want to do good for others before anyone has taught them to do so. Finally, human adults, according to Grotius, are privileged in having the knowledge of general principles of conduct which prompts them to similar actions in similar situations. Moreover, given humans compelling desire for society (and thus comm unication), they have the faculty of speech. 44 Grotius belief in humans ability to know and follow gene ral principles of conduct and to communicate them, indicates that he also believ ed that they are able to understand the concept of natural law, which John Calv in and Martin Luther denied. 45 Having read Marcus Tullius Ciceros On Ends and other works that build on the writ ings of the Stoics, Grotius accepts Ciceros argument that there are first principles of nature from wh ich other, secondary principles originate. 46 Grotius accepts Ciceros definition of first principles of nature as those principles that assure self-preservation and preservation of thi ngs that assure human survival. It is not just a preference for humans to preserve themselves in th e way nature intended; it is also their duty to do so. Grotius does not explain the origin of this duty other than to say that according to the first principles of the law of nature, all animals are born with a duty to preserve themselves. 47 He does not discuss how those principles could be binding. We could assu me that he meant that first principles create obligation by themselves, wh ich would make God as obligating authority unnecessary. Given that Grotius' attempt is to esta blish morality dependent on reason rather than on God (as obedience to God), this would be consistent. Grotius next argument could support this claim. Cicero (and Grotius) balances the pr inciple of self-preservat ion with the duty to refrain from wanton harm. 48 In other words, humans desire to preserve themselves, ought not to lead to unnecessary harm of others. It could also be true that humans have a duty not to harm themselves, not only others. This is consistent wi th Grotius own beliefs given his argument that humans are by nature sociable beings. 44 Grotius, Law 91, prolegomena, sec. 7. 45 Schneewind, Invention 42. 46 Grotius, Law 99, bk. 1, ch. 2, sec. 1.1. 47 Grotius, Law 99, bk. 1, ch. 2, sec. 1.1.
14 Grotius also accepts Ciceros claim that the first principles conform to reason, in which moral goodness is the main object. Achieving moral goodness by employing the first principles, which then lead humans to right reason is important to Grotius because he does not want instincts to direct human action since he believ es that we are rationa l, not instinct-driven animals. 49 Grotius idea of right reason has at its core the social side of human nature. In other words, any action must pass the sociability test if it is to be in accordance with reason. That humans are intelligent shows them as competent to make good judgments. In other words, humans have the power to discriminate or to make decisions about what is good for them, what may harm them, and what can lead to either situation. 50 Grotius thinks that it is in human nature to make well-tempered judgments a nd that fear or the inducement of immediate pleasure does not lead to impulsive decisions. He cl aims that whatever is in disagreement with a well-tempered judgment contradicts the law of nature and consequently the nature of humans. 51 In other words, the law of nature for Grotius is a mandate of right reas on because it obligates us to act according to our sociable, rational nature. By mandate of right reason Grotius means an act that is either in accordance with our rational nature or is not because in either case, at its core, an act has a moral basis. God, as the creator of nature, approves or forbids such an act. 52 For Grotius, God is another source of the law of nature, but the law of nature would be binding even if God did not exist. God permits or forbids an act that is in accord with our nature because it is God that gave humans the specific traits, such as sociab ility and intelligence, that dist inguish them from other animals. 53 It is the law of nature, not God, that obligates them to follow the mandates of reason. Nevertheless, because humans are by nature self-interested as well as sociable, controversies that disrupt social life do occur. 48 Grotius, Law 99, bk. 1, ch. 2, sec. 1.1. 49 Grotius, Law 99, bk. 1, ch. 2, sec. 1.2. 50 Grotius, Law 91, prolegomena, sec. 9. 51 Grotius, Law 91, prolegomena, sec. 9. 52 Grotius, Law 98, bk. 1, ch. 1, sec. 10. 53 Grotius, Law 92, prolegomena, sec. 12.
15 Humans need for law, for Grotius, thus come s from the need to maintain orderly social life that humans as rational beings seek. 54 Controversies arise in peace time, as well as in war time, between nations and between private persons at all levels of society, thus creating the need for laws. One meaning of law for Grotius is that it refers to something that is just in a sense of being lawful. 55 He explains that what is just is what accords with the nature of humans as rational beings. The second meaning of law grows out of the first and refers to the law as a body of rights, where a right refers to a moral quality of a person, making it possible to have or to do something lawfully. 56 Those rights are the rights of an individual human being and include a protection of property. The law requ ires a duty to respect the priv ate ownership of property of others and return of anything that belongs to them including the gains others (other than rightful proprietors) we may have received from it. The law also requires reparations for any harm they may have caused, the obligation to fulfill promises, and impose proper penalties on those who have broken the law. 57 Violations of any of those rights are basic injustices that could make life in a community difficult and are therefore out of character with human nature. Law, for Grotius, leads to what is good but he defines good in terms of rights. This is a cr ucial point in Grotius theory of natural law, which I will address shor tly. Grotius divides right s into those that are perfect and imperfect. Perfect rights are rights that are conducive to the type of law that carries strict obligations. This descrip tion of rights falls under Grotius third meaning of law, which he describes as a rule of moral actions imposing obligation to what is right. 58 He divides law into statutory and natural law. Perfect rights refer to statutory law (also called legal or positive law). 59 Imperfect rights, on the other hand, refer to aptitudes of a moral ag ent and do not carry with them strict obligation. They refer to virtues such as generosity and compassion expressed for the benefit of others. 60 Grotius theory of rights profoundly shapes hi s view of society. Right s are a part of our nature as sociable and rational beings, and we have them whether they serve us or not. God 54 Grotius, Law 91, prolegomena, sec. 8. 55 Grotius, Law 97, bk. 1, ch. 1, sec. 4. 56 Grotius, Law 97, bk. 1, ch. 1, sec. 4. 57 Grotius, Law 91, prolegomena, sec. 8. 58 Grotius, Law 97, bk. 1, ch. 1, sec. 9. 59 Grotius, Law 97, bk. 1, ch. 1, sec. 9.
16 shows respect for those rights by approving or forbi dding them. Grotius theory of rights differs from other theories in that he views rights as qualities grounding law, not as derived from law. 61 In other words, Grotius sees rights as our personal possessions that we have before and independently of our being a part of any soci ety. Having individual right s that enable human beings to pursue their own good in a society is important to Grotius. Because he also holds community life as equally important, he views laws as necessary to enable us to form communities in order to preserve our individual ri ghts. This is a remarkable claim in light of earlier theories of rights, which claimed that th ey were the creation of laws. According to this view, laws prescribe to us different missions or positions, which correspond to specific duties and thus the right to do or to ha ve what we need to do to carry out those obligations. Classical laws of nature assign duties with a purpose to promote a common good as well as the good of an individual moral agent. 62 In summary, Grotius suggests that ethical be liefs that people have held over time have minimal yet universal features, ri ghts and duties, namely the right to self-preservation including the preservation of material goods needed for su rvival and the duty to avoid harming others except to protect ones own life or possessions. 63 The obligation to follow the dictates of natural law comes from a need to bring about resolution to conflicts that arise from our unsociable sociable nature, i.e., from our na tural need for social life that is sometimes difficult to maintain given our desire to pursue our sel f-interest. He views the right to pursue our self-interest as the right to self-preservation, and as independent of our being a pa rt of any society. Consequently, rights, for Grotius, are not derivations from law. Rights ground law in the sense that they force the law to protect rights. By a ssigning individual ri ghts to humans, Grotius provided them with protection from the absolute power of government. Having rights assured equal treatment of all humans regardless of religious or civil status. Gr otius thus contributed to the movement in moral philosophy toward respect for human dignity a nd autonomy of humans as rational agents. 60 Grotius, Law 97, bk. 1, ch.1, sec 8. 61 Schneewind, Invention 80. 62 Schneewind, Invention 80. 63 Grotius, Law 99, bk. 1, ch. 2, sec. 4-6.
17 The drawback of Grotius theory, however, is that he uses only empirical data about human conduct to find a way to resolve conflicts. By insisting on the minimal core of morality that skeptics would find difficult to refute, and by letting God play a role in morality, Grotius attempted to assuage the fears about justice of both groups. As J.B. Schneewind, however, points out, the nature of obligation and Gods role in morality posed a problem for his theory. 64 As we have seen earlier, God is one of the sources of the law of nature, the other being reason, which calls into question the precise ro le of God in Grotius theory. In other words, it is not clear whether Grotius' God is necessary for morality. As Jean Barbeyrac pointed out, if the laws of nature impose obligation to follow those laws on their own without relying on God, then God's will has no role in morality. 65 This position represents a radical departure from morality as obedience to God and toward morality based on moral agents' reason. Grotius is not explicit on the matter, i.e., on the role of God in morality and on the nature of obligation and this posed problems for the followers of his theory. Moral ity needed a more comprehensive theory to establish humans as free rationa l agents capable of recognizing their moral responsibilities and being motivated to fulfill them without the thre at of punishment or expectation of rewards. Grotius theory influenced other moral and political theorists incl uding his contemporary, Thomas Hobbes, and later in the seventeenth century, Richard Cumberland, Samuel Pufendorf, and John Locke. For the purposes of this paper I will compare the theories of Hobbes and Locke with that of Grotius. Hobbes Although Hobbes accepts some precepts of Grotiu s theory in developing his own theory of moral philosophy, such as the ri ght to self-preservation, he reje cts others such as the Grotian idea of natural sociability. He thinks that althoug h human beings have a de sire for society, they do not naturally seek it. 66 According to Hobbes, humans learn to seek community because they 64 Schneewind, Invention 75. 65 Schneewind, Invention 75. 66 Thomas Hobbes, De Cive: Philosophical Rudiments Concerning Government and Society Reprinted in:
18 receive some benefits from it such as honor or profit. 67 Self-interest drives humans into society, but it also causes difficulties in maintaining it. While Grotius views humans as self-interested but also altruistic, Hobbes views selfishness as the main, if not the only factor, in human motivation. This is apparent in his discussion of transfer of individual rights that all human beings possess in the state of nature, to th at of civil government: "For it is a voluntary act, and of the voluntary acts of every man the object is some good to himself ." 68 Given his presupposition that all humans are selfish, Hobbes thinks that they distrust and dread each other, and that only fear of some coercive power, such as ruler or civil st ate, can mitigate those feelings. 69 Human beings, therefore, necessarily have a natural right to self-preservation, which allows them to use all their resources to preserve their own lives as we ll as those of others: the first foundation of natural right is . that every man as much as in him lies endeavor to protect his life . 70 Moreover, to assure selfpreservation, Hobbes has to allow humans the ri ght to use the necessary means and actions to preserve their lives. 71 Without the right to the use of nece ssary means, self-preservation is not possible. Hobbes, therefore, assigns humans the natural right to the means they need to preserve their own lives and the li ves of others. This right to self-p reservation includes making judgments about the means to do so. 72 Hobbes does not allow others to be the judges of the necessary means for self-preservation because othe rs are equally self-interested. 73 This state of c onstant distrust and dread leads to the state of war of all against all; . in that war all men have an equal right to all things. 74 In this state of nature, which Hobbes identifies as the state of war, human beings are miserable and as soon as they realize this, re ason and nature compels them to end this state of misery. They can do so only if they all give up the right to all things 75 Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant ed. J. B. Schneewind (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983) 116-17, ch. 1, sec. 2, 111-137. Although I use mainly Rudiments for discussion of Hobbes' political theory, an expanded version of this theory is in the Leviathan chapters 14 and 15 in particular. 67 Hobbes, Rudiments 116-17, ch. 1, sec. 2. 68 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994) 82, ch. 14, sec. 8. 69 Hobbes, Rudiments 114. 70 Hobbes, Rudiments 118, ch. 1. sec. 7. 71 Hobbes, Rudiments 118, ch. 1. sec. 8. 72 Hobbes, Rudiments 119, ch. 1. sec. 9. 73 Hobbes, Rudiments 119, ch. 1. sec. 9. 74 Hobbes, Rudiments 115. 75 Hobbes, Rudiments 115.
19 Right for Hobbes, signifies freedom or liberty that all humans have to use their natural faculties (bodily strength, experience, reason, passion), provided it satisfies right reason. 76 The basis for natural right, according to Hobbes, is th at all humans have a right to protect their own lives. 77 To act according to right reason in the state of nature, for Hobbes, is to act according to what each person thinks is right. 78 In the Leviathan he makes the same point somewhat differently. He claims that acting in agreement with the right of nature is to act according to the command of our will, using our right to self-preservation. 79 This is where Grotius and Hobbes differ. As we have seen earlier, Grotius thinks th at acting according to righ t reason is acting so as to respect our natural sociability, while Hobbes thinks in terms of self-defense. The state of nature as the state of war cannot last because the effect of equal right to all things, coupled with equal power, is no right at all. 80 The state of war is a result of mutual fear humans have, which is partly due to their natural equality and partly due to their mutual will to harm, even kill others [in self-defense]. 81 Consequently, in Hobbes view, humans cannot expect to be safe from others; neither can they promise security to themselves. Their physical and intellectual faculties diminish and the weakest can kill the strongest. Thus human beings, for Hobbes, cannot trust their strengt h to consider themselves by na ture above others. Hobbes thus sees all humans as equal to each othe r with equal ability to cause harm. 82 To end this unsustainable state of war wher e everyone has a right to all things simply because they want them, 83 and where everyone has an equal ability to destroy each other, Hobbes proposes peace as a solution. He sees seeking pe ace as a necessary requirement, the fundamental law of nature, a dictate of reason to facilitate self-preservation. 84 He thus ties the laws of nature to right reason, claiming that dictates of right reason are th e laws of nature. 85 Like Grotius, Hobbes thinks that reason gives humans direct ives whose obligatory force does not depend on 76 Hobbes, Rudiments 118, ch. 1, sec. 7. 77 Hobbes, Rudiments 118, ch. 1, sec. 7. 78 Hobbes, Rudiments 118, ch. 1, sec. 10. 79 Hobbes, Leviathan 79, ch.14, sec. 1. 80 Hobbes, Rudiments 119, ch. 1, sec. 11. 81 Hobbes, Rudiments 117, ch. 1, sec.3. 82 Hobbes, Rudiments 117, ch. 1, sec. 3. 83 Hobbes, Rudiments 119, ch. 1, sec.10. 84 Hobbes, Leviathan 79, ch. 14, sec. 3; Hobbes, Rudiments 121, ch.1, sec.15. 85 Hobbes, Rudiments 115.
20 God. 86 We can see this in Hobbes equation of natu ral law with the divine law because it is God who has given humans reason to guide their actions. 87 To seek peace is a logical step because a perpetual state of war would lead to self-destr uction. This would be in opposition to the natural human desire for what is good. Also, no one values war of all against all, which necessarily accompanies the state of war, as something good. 88 Consequently, to prev ent self-destruction in the state of war, Hobbes suggests that humans must help each other in the sense that they must consent to enter into soci ety without any limitation. 89 In other words, they must give up their rights to all things, which is a law Hobbes derives from the basic law of nature, that of seeking peace. Thus Hobbes, like Grotius, turns to the laws of nature to end fear and hostilities. Hobbes thinks that natural law requires humans to transfer or relinquish some right s to insure their own preservation. 90 This is a form of social contract with a ruler or civil government to which citizens surrender all their rights except the right to defend themselves against violence. 91 Although Hobbes seems to follow and perhaps ev en advance Grotius theory, there is an important difference (among others outlined earli er) between the two. As mentioned previously, Hobbes makes each individual a judge of what c onstitutes their preservation, with the effect being a loss of all the anti-skeptical advantages of Grotius theory. 92 In other words, if there is no general agreement about what counts as danger, and everyone decides for themselves what they should do to defend themselves, then conflic t will occur. The idea of natural and universal right to self-defense as a solution to the skeptical challenge becomes obsolete. 93 By giving the right or the power to an i ndividual, Hobbes promotes the idea of selfgovernance. The problem is Hobbes view of human beings as unruly and untrustworthy and thus as overly concerned about th eir preservation, which leads him to rely on their actual conduct and to conclude that they need a coercive power to keep them in line. It is this single concentration on the principle of self-preservation and self-defense that makes it difficult for 86 Schneewind, Invention 97. 87 Hobbes, Rudiments 134, ch. 4, sec 1. 88 Hobbes, Rudiments 120, ch. 1, sec. 13. 89 Hobbes, Rudiments 120, ch. 1, sec. 13. 90 Hobbes, Leviathan 80, ch. 14, sec. 1-6; Hobbes, Rudiments 122, ch. 2, sec. 3. 91 Hobbes, Leviathan 106-10, ch. 14, sec. 1-15; Hobbes, Rudiments 135, ch. 5, sec. 6-9. 92 Richard Tuck, Hobbes (New York: Oxford UP, 1989) 64. 93 Tuck, Hobbes 64.
21 humans to know all the commands of natural law. Hobbes admits that passions such as hope, fear, anger, ambition, covetousne ss, vain glory hinder humans ability to know the laws of nature. 94 He also sees humans as capable of know ing the laws of nature and thus acting according to precepts of those laws, and thus being able to evaluate their actions in relation to others in accord with natural laws. Moreover, he claims that it is easy to follow the principle that humans ought to follow in order to make considerate decisions regarding their actions. All they need to do is to follow a certain rule. This rule is a famous ancient dictum: do not do that to others, you would not have done to yourself. 95 If Hobbes utilized this rule as the ra tional principle of morality and thus as universalizable, he would have contributed more to the development of the idea of morality as self-governance. His reliance on ac tual human nature, as he unde rstood it, stops him from doing so. In other words, Hobbes believes that human beings are capable of and acknowledge natural laws such as seeking peace, honoring contract s, mercy, equality and hum ility. If humans could not know these laws, they could not be obligated to follow them. Moreover, they would not be laws. Hobbes, however, acknowledges that certain aspects of human na ture like hope, fear, anger, ambition, and covetousness are limiting wh ile they dominate the minds of human beings. But because all people experience tranquil time s ooner or later, they can evaluate their actions before they undertake them by usin g the above rule, whether they do or do not involve a law of nature. 96 Hobbes, however, believes that the perverse desire of humans for present advantage, stops them from observing those laws. 97 Consequently, Hobbes' own view of human nature dissuades him from utilizing the ancient rule, do not do that to others, you would not have done to yourself, as a rational principle of morality. 94 Hobbes, Rudiments 131. 95 Hobbes, Rudiments 132, ch. 3, sec. 26. 96 Hobbes, Rudiments 132, ch.3, sec. 26. 97 Hobbes, Rudiments 132, ch.3, sec. 27.
22 Locke Like Grotius and Hobbes, Locke believes in th e state of nature but also sees a need for civil government. The state of nature fo r Locke is a natural state for people, a state of perfect freedom to act and make conclusive decisions about life and property freely, without asking permission from others. 98 Locke draws on Richard Hooker, 99 who believed not only that the state of nature exists but also that the laws in the state of nature are absolutely binding on humans simply because they are humans, despite the absence of any formal agreement among them. 100 Like Grotius, Locke believes that humans are soci able beings. According to Locke, regardless of the absence of any formal fellowship among peopl e and of any formal agreements about what to do, or not to do, people realize that they ne ed others to live a complete life. Furthermore, according to Hooker and Locke, people natura lly need and desire to live a life of dignity 101 Human need for communion and fellowship with others originally drove them to unite themselves in political societies. This is not to sa y that the state of nature is not the natural state for humans to live in, but only that they may choo se to be members of some political society for a mutual benefit. 102 I will address this point shortly. For Locke, the state of liberty or freedom is not the state of licence. 103 He imposes certain limits. Like Grotius and Hobbes, Locke claims th at humans do not have a right to destroy each other nor any creatures in their possession unless there is a need for self-preserv ation. Also like Grotius and Hobbes, Locke invokes the law of natu re (or the law of reas on) as the source of obligation. Reason, Locke says, teac hes all who are willing to cons ult it, that ev eryone is equal and independent. Consequently, no one ought to ha rm another in his life, liberty, health, or 98 John Locke, Second Treatise of Government ed. C.B. Macpherson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980) 8, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 4. 99 Hooker (1554-1600) wrote Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Politie (1593 -1662), hi s masterpiece from which Locke quotes, in eight books of which only five were published in Hooker's lifetime. 100 Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977) bk. 1, sec. 10; Locke, Treatise 13, bk. 2, ch. 2. sec. 15. 101 Hooker, Ecclesiastical bk. 1, sec. 10; Locke, Treatise 13, bk. 2, ch. 2. sec. 15. 102 Locke, Treatise 13, bk. 2, ch. 2. sec. 15. 103 Locke, Treatise 9, bk. 2, ch.2, sec. 6.
23 property. 104 As with Grotius and Hobbes, God also play s a role in Lockes vi ew of the state of nature. He claims that human beings are the cr eation of an omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker, who sent them into th e world to do specific work. Moreover, Locke thinks that God provided everyone with like facultie s to share in the community of nature without subordination, in a sense that humans may not destroy or use othe rs as if they are inferior to them. Moreover, Locke says, everyone is obligated to self-preserva tion and even to preserva tion of others if their own preservation is not competing with it. Finally, in the state of nature, unl ess it benefits others, no one may interfere with the life, or what pertains to preservati on of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another. 105 A state of nature is also a state of equality for Locke, which he describes as a state where all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, i.e., no one having more than another. 106 He thinks that everyone of the same species and rank is ent itled to have the same advantages that nature has to offer without discrimination, including the use of the same faculties. This means that everyone is equal to everyone el se. Only God can appoint and give someone an undoubted right to authority and sovereignty. 107 Additionally, quoting Hooker again, Locke implicitly suggests that equality is self-evident and beyond all doubt. Hooker, Locke explains, sees equality as the basis of the obligation to mutual love among people, and on this foundation he outlines the duties they owe to one another. Hooker then derives the principles of beneficence and justice from those duties. 108 Locke also emphasizes a natural right to private property in the state of nature because he sees it as necessary for self-preservation. 109 He postulates that people establish private property in agreement with natural law, before the establishment of any positive civil laws. The earth and everything on it are a gi ft of God to all the people for their survival, which means that there is a natural right to life. As a result, peop le can appropriate to themselves as much property as they need to preserve their lives. To ensure fairness, Locke imposes certain limits on property. 104 Locke, Treatise 9, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 6. 105 Locke, Treatise 9, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 6. 106 Locke, Treatise 8, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 4. 107 Locke, Treatise 8, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 4. 108 Hooker, Ecclesiastical bk. 1; Locke, Treatise 8, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 5. 109 Locke, Treatise 19, bk. 2, ch. 5, sec. 27, 33.
24 First, because everyone has a right to self-prese rvation, Locke thinks that all may appropriate individually for themselves as long as they leave enough and as good for others. 110 Second, because God created enough to sustain all people, anyone may appropriate only as much as they can use before it spoils. 111 Locke's requirement for appropriati on of common property as private property is the use of labor: "Whatsoever . he removes out of the state of nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labor with, and joined to it so mething that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. 112 Locke reasons that the earth and everything on it is Gods gift to people for their support and comfort and thus he (Locke) has to exclude others from claiming the same common property. He thinks that the la bor added to common property excludes others from claiming the same common property for themselves. He sets another limit within this last limit on property by suggesting that there has to be enough, and as good, left in common for others. 113 These limits justified appropriation of th e land and its products. They also defined a natural right to self-appr opriation, which did not require the consent of others. 114 Although Locke initially sets limits on the am ount of property people can have in the state of nature, before they enter the civil society, he in effect removes those original natural law limits in the civil state when he introduces money. 115 The role of the law of nature, for Locke, is to foster noninterference with individual rights such as life, liberty, equality, and property, to instill restraint am ong individuals to prevent them from invading or harming each other. Having a right, according to Locke, means having the free use of something, whereas law prescrib es or forbids performing an action. 116 The law of nature, Locke says, requires the peace and preservation of all mankind . 117 Those who break the law can expect a type of punishment to such an extent that would deter the violation of law. Moreover, the law of nature would be meaningle ss if no one had a power to execute the law. 110 Locke, Treatise 19, bk. 2, ch. 5, sec. 27, 33. 111 Locke, Treatise 20, bk. 2, ch. 5. sec. 31. 112 Locke, Treatise 19, bk. 2, ch. 5, sec. 27. 113 Locke, Treatise 19, bk. 2, ch. 5. sec. 27. 114 C.B. Macpherson, "Editor's Introduction," Second Treatise of Government by John Locke ed. C.B. Macpherson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980) xvi. 115 Locke, Treatise 19, bk. 2, ch. 5. sec. 27. 116 John Locke, Essays on the Law of Nature trans. W. von Leyden (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958) 111. 117 Locke, Treatise 9, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 7.
25 Given that the state of nature is also the state of perfect equa lity, everyone has the right and the power to execute laws to protect t he innocent and restrain offenders. 118 Furthermore, this right to self-preservation gives people the right to acquire th e possessions of the offender and to punish crimes to prevent future ones from occurring so as to preserve all mankind. 119 This task of everyone being his or her own judge and policem en becomes burdensome. Thus even in the peaceful state of nature some form of government is still necessary to co rrect the inconvenience of everyone's having to be her or his own judge and policemen. Locke sees a need for a very strong government in the state of war because this is a state of enmity, malice, violence and mutual destruction. 120 The state of war comes about when a violation of rights occurs in the state of nature, when someone uses might without right. 121 People quit the state of nature when even the smallest differences end in the state of war. 122 That mutual benefit of becoming a member of a civil society, for Locke, is mutual preservation. He claims that the enjoyment of freedom, equality, and property becomes very uncertain in the state of nature and that others constantly invade this state. Unlike Hobbes, who thought that a coercive government was necessary to keep the lawbreakers in line, Locke wanted to set up a very strong but limited rather than absolute government Locke, like Grotius, wanted to set up limited government whose role is to protect the same rights pres ent in the state of nature, e.g., life, liberty, and unlimited property. Hobbes government was more coercive in enforcing rights because Hobbes anticipated freque nt violations, which was consistent with his rejection of the idea of natural sociability. As we will see later, Lockes idea of limited government gained respect in the sense that it pr ovided Americans with the necessary reasons to overthrow its status as a British colony and serv ed, at least partially, as a model for the US Declaration of Independence. Another reason for joining a civil st ate is that peoples existence becomes so threatened and full of fears and continual dangers that they feel very unsafe, very 118 Locke, Treatise 9, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec. 7. 119 Locke, Treatise 11, bk. 2, ch. 2, sec.11. 120 Locke, Treatise 15, bk. 2, ch. 3, sec. 19. 121 Locke, Treatise 15, bk. 2, ch. 3, sec. 19. 122 Macpherson, "Editor's Introduction" xiv; Locke, Treatise 16, bk. 2, ch. 3, sec. 21.
26 insecure. The reason for this unstable state is that many people do not adhe re to the notions of equity and justice 123 The root of the need for mutual preserva tion and thus for civil government in Lockes theory is his view of human nature, which he bases on the idea that humans have excessive desires that dominate their actions. Locke thinks that moral laws are necessary to control those excessive desires. Like Grotius and Hobbes, he bases moral laws on actual human conduct. He thinks that the principles that guide human action cannot be inna te moral or logical principles because they are too speculative to produce confor mity. Humans have natural inclinations such as desire of happiness and aversion to misery. 124 These inclinations for Locke are constantly present in all human action in people of all ages and therefore are firm and universal. 125 Inclinations, however, express desires, not tr uths, and therefore cannot be innate moral principles. Punishments and rewards that the law imposes are necessary to keep these desires in check. 126 Lockes emphasis on appetites and aversions as the basis of human motivation is remarkably like Hobbess theory of motivation in the sense that appetites unless controlled by a law armed with the power of punishments and rewards, will override all moral behavior. 127 Also, like Hobbes before him, Locke views human kind not only as appetitive but also as wanting the respect of others. Nevertheless, Locke conc ludes that human kind possesses enough natural reasoning ability to conclude that it needs to agree on those principles of morality that are absolutely necessary to hold society together. 128 Locke adds that societies usually neglect these principles of morality. 129 Because runaway appetite s would ruin any society, people must restrain those insatiable desires by a broad recogniti on that some minimal rules of morality are necessary. 130 To control desires that might lead us to forgo our obligations, Locke introduces 123 Macpherson, "Editor's Introduction" xiv; Locke, Treatise 65, bk. 2, ch. 9. sec. 123. 124 John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding ed. Peter H. Nidditch (New York: Oxford, 1975) 67, bk. 1, ch. 3, sec. 3. 125 Locke, Essay 67, bk. 1, ch. 3, sec. 3. 126 Locke, Essay 74, bk. 1, ch. 3, sec. 13. 127 Macpherson, "Editor's Introduction" xi. 128 Macpherson, "Editor's Introduction" xi; Locke, Essay 72, bk. 1, ch. 3, sec. 10. 129 Macpherson, "Editor's Introduction" xi; Locke, Essay bk 1, ch. 3, sec. 10. 130 Macpherson, "Editor's Introduction" xiii.
27 contracts, bargains, and a powerful, although lim ited, authority (government) to enforce them. This became necessary only when the distribu tion of property became unequal, when money became a bartering tool. 131 In summary, Lockes theory seems Grotia n without being Hobbesian. Like Grotius, Locke sees humans as sociable beings needing th e fellowship of others but also being concerned about their preservation. Although th e state of nature provides hu mans with freedom, equality, and property necessary to preserve their own li ves in the way God meant for them to enjoy, conflict and even war are unavoidable because excessive desires drive human beings. The formation of civil government becomes necessary wh en people get tired of being in constant fear of attack on their lives and property. This government is limited in the sense that it is supposed to protect those rights that humans ha ve in the state of nature, thus to ensure a life with dignity. The obligation for human beings to follow the law of nature, peace and pres ervation of all humankind comes from the simple truth that they are hum ans. This view established Locke for some philosophers as a father of inalienable natural rights that dominate political documents today. Although Lockes claim that human beings have rights simply because they are human goes some distance toward establishing morality as se lf-governance, especially because he insists on limited government designed to protect human rights, it does not go far enough. The problem with Lockes theory of rights is that like Gro tius and Hobbes, he relies on actual human conduct to establish the universality of rights. As we will see in the next section on Kant's theory of autonomy and absolute worth, rights and morality ar e rational concepts that need a rational rather than empirical basis for their existence. The dynamic climate of the time and Lockes pr ovocative theory of natural rights, helped inspire the intellectual movement in the eigh teenth century called the Enlightenment, "the dawning of a new age of human reason and knowledge." 132 The leading intellectuals of the movement, Francois Voltaire (1694-1778) David Hume (1711-1776), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), aspi red to "develop modern conceptions of humanity by seeking to free human reason fr om dogma and the individual from absolute 131 Macpherson, "Editor's Introduction" xviii. 132 Lauren, Evolution 15.
28 authority." 133 "Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains," Rousseau proclaimed. 134 Kant asserted that the categorical imperative, his princi ple law of morality (or a universal duty as some call it), protects the intrinsic worth of all individu als, so that humans wo uld treat each other not only as means but also as ends in themselves. Th e Enlightenment thinkers concentrated "not so much on pure scientific discove ry and abstract system-buildi ng but instead on applied science and specific reforms relating to human nature and long fostering human problems of economic exploitation, social suppression, political despotis m, torture, and ecclesia stical superstition and intolerance." 135 They relied on the notion of natural law as discovered thorough human r eason and brought it to the peak of its prestige. They believed that the fundamen tal rationality in the laws of nature could be applied to various aspects of the human condition, thus making humanity and society more rational and more perfectible through human effort. By extension, they said, such progress coul d result in greater happiness and liberty for all without distinction of race or sect, towards perfection and happiness. 136 Other Enlightenment philosophers attempted to interconnect natural law and rights more explicitly. Denis Diderot (1713-1784), for instan ce, suggested that everyone understands the laws of nature and that they give the most basi c justification for human society. He claims that irrespective of author ities such as kings, aristocracy, religi ous leaders, or of country, class, and time period, the laws of nature specify what is "naturally and universa lly just for all human beings." 137 Diderot used the language of equal, indivi dual rights for all and challenged authority by asserting, "Tell yoursel f often: I am a man, and I have no ot her true inalienable natural rights than those of humanity." 138 I will next examine Kants development of the categorical imperative, which serves as the basis for his theory of autonomy and absolu te worth. These concepts, along with those of natural law and natural rights, dramatically change d the definition of morality from obedience to 133 Lauren, Evolution 15. 134 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983) 17, bk. 1. ch. 1. 135 Lauren, Evolution 15. 136 Lauren, Evolution 16. 137 Lauren, Evolution 16. 138 Lauren, Evolution 16.
29 morality as autonomy. The acceptance of these concep ts also affected the role and the structure of governments in Europe and the United Stat es in the sense that governments were now supposed to protect the freedom and the rights of individuals. Kants Theory of Autonomy and Absolute Worth In the eighteenth century the natural law theories of Grotiu s, Hobbes, and Locke became vulnerable to a new type of skeptical criticism which negated the importance of facts in ethical thinking. By the end of the eighteenth century the whole structure of modern philosophy underwent a critical transformation that shed the modern theory of natura l law and its reliance on human psychology and culture. 139 Hume started this transformation, Rousseau continued it, and Kant completed it. Hume viewed his natural la w predecessors attempts to answer skeptics by relying on the universality of actual beliefs and practices (such as the humans disposition to defend themselves, and their belie f that self-defense is morally acceptable), as mistaken. 140 Hume found this sort of evidence completely un acceptable in the developmen t of moral attitudes. For Hume, the mere fact that others are thinki ng or acting in a certain way cannot serve as a guide or evidence that all should be doing the same thing. 141 Rousseau makes a similar although less explicit point in the Social Contract, Book I. 142 He claims that humans do not have moral rights and moral obligations in the state of nature because morality is simply a human creation in political communities and as such has author ity only if the invented communities were democratic republics. Consequentl y, naturalistic ethics (like what some see in Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke) is a contradiction in terms. 143 139 Tuck, Hobbes 95. 140 Tuck, Hobbes 95; David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (London: Penguin Books, 1969) 275, bk. 1, ch. 4, sec. 4. 141 Tuck, Hobbes 95; Schneewind, Invention 514. 142 Tuck, Hobbes 96. 143 Tuck, Hobbes 96. I will talk about democratic republics late r in this section as it is a part of Kants philosophy.
30 Kant relied on Hume and Rou sseau to wrap up the critique of the eighteenth century naturalism in all areas of philosophy, with special emphasis on the history of modern philosophy. 144 Kant viewed the history of philosophy, fr om antiquity forward, as a competition between empiricism and rationalism, where empiricism relied on sense experience for its arguments and rationalism utilized mental concepts developed prior to experience. Kant set out to place the debate between the two in a new context and insist ed that the difference between moral judgments and matters of f act is firm. Kant thought that seventeenth-century philosophers did not distinguish between the two and thus unjustifiably mixed anthropology and psychology with ethics. He based this assumption of th e idea that our moral judgments must be a priori, i.e., pure and uncontaminated by our beliefs about th e material character of the world, including the character of human psychology. 145 In other words, Kant aimed to provide a different basis for morality from the minimal core that Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke provided as an answer to the skeptical challenge that denied a possibility of knowledge of natural law and justice. He set out to show that the ultimate princi ple of morality is based on rational concepts alone. For Kant, this principle establishes morality not only as selfgovernance but as autonomy and human beings as autonomous agents. It also establishes a unive rsal duty to protect th e inherent value of individuals so that human beings have value as ends, not only as means. Self-governance is based on the idea that a ll humans are equally able to determine the demands of morality and have a self-motivating ability to meet those demands, without fearing punishment or having expectations of rewards. To advance the idea of selfobligation as a viable option to external obligating authority such as God (an idea we have seen earlier in the writings of Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke), Kant argued that a morally valid law is absolutely necessary to provide a basis for obligation. 146 Such law has to be valid not only for human beings but for all rational beings, includ ing God, in whom they see moral perfection. 147 Moreover, Kant claims that the basis for the obligation of moral la w cannot be the nature of humans or the circumstances of the world in which they find th emselves. The basis for obligation has to be a 144 Tuck, Hobbes 96. 145 Tuck, Hobbes 96. 146 Kant, Grounding 2, Ak. 389. 147 Kant, Grounding 20, Ak. 408.
31 priori, and we can find it only in the concepts of pure reason. Any precepts based only on experience, even those that are in some ways uni versal (such as those that Grotius, Hobbes and Locke advanced), Kant considered pr actical rules, but never moral laws. 148 In Kants opinion, all moral philosophy, not only moral laws and its princi ples, has its basis in pure rational concepts only, free of any empirical concepts. He thinks that if a moral theory is to be universally binding on all rational beings, it must be based on a uni versal law that originates in reason. Because everyone's experience is different, it is impossibl e to use experience as a guide to developing a supreme principle of morality. Once reason alone formulates the principle, a more popular practical philosophy may then accept it from this theoretical level. In order to formulate a new principle of morality, however, r eason must first separate itse lf from ordinary knowledge and from all experience. When reason finishes the deve lopment of a new formal moral principle, it is in such form that all moral agents can accept it. 149 At this point experience is necessary because it helps sharpen the power of judgment that mo ral law requires to determine the cases where moral laws might be applicable. 150 One of the ways that Kant arrives at the supreme principle of morality is by analyzing rational action. Like Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke, Ka nt believes that nature operates according to laws and that only rational beings have the abil ity to act according to their "conception of laws, i.e., according to principles." 151 This ability to act according to principles of those laws, Kant calls "will." Because deriving actions from laws requires reason, Kant views will as practical reason. In other words, because reason always de termines wills action, the will is the faculty that chooses only that which reason, "independ ently of inclination, recognizes as being practically necessa ry, i.e., as good." 152 If inclinations were to infl uence the will, this will be a subjectively-contingent condition rather than an objectively necessary one, as when reason determines the will. Kant cannot allow this because he wants to develop the law of morality that is necessarily true and universally applicable. 153 Moreover, not only can reason act independently 148 Kant, Grounding 3,22, Ak. 389, 410. 149 Kant, Grounding 21, Ak. 409. 150 Kant, Grounding 3, Ak. 389. 151 Kant, Grounding 23, Ak. 412. 152 Kant, Grounding 23, Ak. 412. 153 Kant, Grounding 24, Ak. 413.
32 of inclinations; it is its job to interfere with them: "reason recognizes as its highest practical function the establishment of a good will, whereby in the attainment of this end reason is capable only of its own satisfaction, that of fulfilling a purpose which is in turn determined by reason, even though such fulfillment were often to interfere with the pur poses of inclination." 154 The role of reason is to produce a good will a will that is good in itself re gardless of any purpose or end it may achieve, because it serves as a basis for dut y, a concept that Kant uses to determine the moral worth of an action. 155 The Kantian concept of duty includes the concept of a good will, free of "certain subjective restricti ons and hindrances." 156 As long as the will expresse s an objective principle, a principle that reason prescribes, it is a comma nd or imperative. The command of reason to the will is a categorical imperative and its action does not depend on any other purpose but to define moral obligations of all rational beings. 157 If an imperative involves a purpose such as happiness, or if it serves as a means to an end, then this is a hypothetical imperativ e, and as such it cannot serve as the basis for the law. 158 According to Kant, "Only the law itself can be an object of respect and hence can be a command." 159 The necessary attribute of law is its universality. If rational agents act out of respect for th e law, their actions have moral worth. 160 For Kant there is only one law of morality, the catego rical imperative, and it is this: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can a the same time will that it should become a universal law." 161 According to Kant, we can deduce all other moral imperatives from this one. Moreover, given the previous discussion about the law of nature, it is important to mention another formulation of the categorical imperative, that of the law of nature, which Kant al so calls the imperative of duty. For Kant, the universality of law constitutes nature, i. e., the existence of things to the extent that 154 Kant, Grounding 9, Ak. 398. 155 Kant, Grounding 26, Ak. 416. 156 Kant, Grounding 9, Ak. 397. 157 Kant, Grounding 26, Ak. 416. 158 Kant, Grounding 25, Ak. 414-15. 159 Kant, Grounding 13, Ak. 400. 160 Kant, Grounding 26, Ak. 416. 161 Kant, Grounding 30, Ak. 421.
33 the universal laws determine them. Accordingly, th is imperative is as follows: "Act as if the maxim of your action were to become th rough your will a universal law of nature." 162 If humans can will the maxim (the rule rati onal beings give to themselves and act on), then it should become a universal law, and if not, then they should reject it the because it is not "fitting as a principle in a possibl e legislation of universal law." 163 The purpose of the will is thus to legislate a universal law. 164 The fitness of the maxim does not depend on any advantage or disadvantage that it may cause to us or to ot hers. Moreover, "reason demands immediate respect for such legislation." 165 To test the applicability of the ma xim as a universal law, moral agents must envision it in the world in which the maxim is to be universalized, i. e., in which it is a law of nature. 166 If moral agents cannot conceive the maxim as a law of nature without contradiction, than it is in disagreement with st rict or perfect [irremi ssible] duty, either to one self [inner] or to others [outer]. 167 If, on the other hand, moral agents cannot will the maxim without contradiction, the maxim is in disagreement with broad or im perfect [meritorious] duty, also classified as duty either to oneself or to others. 168 Making decisions about maxims involves some end or purpose, in a positive or negative sense, i.e., as ends to achieve or as harms to avoid. 169 The purpose of the categorical imperative is to assure that moral agents choose an end th at has an absolute value, a value that reason determines and gives to the rational will. An absolute value cannot come from our desires because they are a source of needs that cannot be universalized, and it cannot come from objects of our desires because those objects get their value only from those who value them. Anything we use as a means cannot serve as an absolute value because it is a means to an end. The only things that have an absolute value are those things that are an end in themselves, and for Kant "Persons are . not merely subjective ends . but are objective ends, i.e., exist as ends in 162 Kant, Grounding 30, Ak. 421. 163 Kant, Grounding 15, Ak. 403. 164 Kant, Grounding 40, Ak. 434. 165 Kant, Grounding 15, Ak. 403. 166 Kant, Grounding 32, Ak. 424. 167 Not committing suicide is an example of perfect duty to oneself, while keeping promises is a perfect duty to others. 168 Cultivating ones talents is an imperfect duty to oneself, while benefitting others is an imperfect duty to others. Kant, Grounding 32, Ak. 424. 169 Kant, Grounding 36, Ak. 428.
34 themselves." 170 To transform this into an objective principle of the will, the categorical imperative, and thus into a practical law, Kant offers the rational nature of human beings as an end itself. 171 This is a subjective princi ple of human actions, but it is at the same time an objective principle because all rationa l beings see themselves as ends. If all of us maintain that our ends are good, then we view our own humanity as a source of value. Because universality requires consistency, we have to respect the human ity of others. The principle of humanity thus gains the status of an objective end necessary for the categorical imperative to determine the will. This principle is not a purpose we must accomplis h but rather a negative end or right that we cannot violate. The principle of humanity or the second version of the cate gorical imperative is thus: "Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only." 172 Given that the principle of humanity limits every persons freedom of action, Kant offers another formulation of the categorical imperative, the principle of autonomy, which follows from the first and second versions of the categorical imperative, the pr inciple of universal law and the principle of humanity, respectively: the ground of all practical legi slation lies objectiv ely in the rule a nd in the form of universality, which (according to the firs t principle) makes the rule capable of being a law (say for example a law of nature). Subjectively, however, the ground of all practical legislation lies in the end: but (accordi ng to second principle) the subject of all ends is every rational being as an end in himself. From this there now follows the third practical principle of the will as the supreme condition of the wills conformity with universal practical reason, viz., the will of every rational being as a will that legislates universal law. 173 If rational beings decide their own ends or set value on things, it follows that they must regard their rational nature as an end in itself. When they act on maxims that are to be universal laws, they keep their rational nature in mind. Because rational beings decide th eir own ends, they are 170 Kant, Grounding 36, Ak. 428. 171 Kant, Grounding 36, Ak. 429. 172 Kant, Grounding 36, Ak. 429. 173 Kant, Grounding 38, Ak. 431.
35 the ones that give themselves this law and, ther efore, are autonomous. They have a free will, which enables them to legislate universal law in the kingdom of ends, a moral community (or an ideal state) of differe nt rational beings united through common laws. 174 In other words, this is a community "in which freedom is perfectly realized, for its citizens are free both in the sense that they have made their own laws, and in the sense that the laws they made are the laws of freedom the juridical laws of external freedom a nd the ethical laws of internal freedom." 175 A moral community is possible because of the principle of humanity, which prescribes that rational beings treat themselves, as well as others, as ends and never only as means. 176 Treating oneself and others as ends and never onl y as means in the kingdom of ends gives rational be ings intrinsic worth, i.e., dignity. 177 In this regard, autonomy serves as the basis "of the dignity of human nature and every ot her rationa l nature." 178 Kant thus describes human beings as au tonomous beings having intrinsic worth and dignity, and endowed with an in trinsically good will or practical reason that enables them to legislate the universal laws of nature to whic h they are also subject. The possession of reason gives humans the ability to make choices. This is important because desires can influence humans and distract them from acting accordin g to moral principles. This power to choose makes humans autonomous, as well as, rational agen ts. These qualities, however, do not lead to the state of peace. Living in close proximity with others is not a natural state for humans because, like his predecessors, namely Grotius, H obbes, Locke, and Rousseau, Kant believes that they are unsociable sociable beings. Like Hobbes, Kant views the state of natu re as a state of war, consisting of open hostilities and of continuous and a persistent threat of hostilities, which necessitate creation of the civilized state. The suspension of hostilities alone does not offer the security of peace, which is possible only in a lawful or civil state. 179 To achieve perpetual peace, Kant envisions that a just 174 Kant, Grounding 39-40, Ak. 432-33. 175 Christine M. Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdom of Ends (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 23. 176 Kant, Grounding 39-40, Ak. 432-33. 177 Kant, Grounding 40, Ak. 435. 178 Kant, Grounding 40-41, Ak. 435-36. 179 Immanuel Kant, "Peace," 1795 trans. Ted Humphrey, Perpetual Peace and Other Essays (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983) 111, Ak. 349.
36 constitution of every nation, in relation to the persons who accept it, must have three important components: one that respects people's civil rights one that conforms to the rights of nations in relation to one another, and one that conforms to the rights of world citizenship to the extent that people and nations are in "mutually influential relations as citizens of a universa l nation of men." 180 The last component is a prelude to the late r, twentieth-century international effort to devise documents such as the Universal Declar ation of Human Rights, which would protect the rights of people and nations. Like Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke, Kant sets up a civil state to prot ect freedom and rights. Kant differs from Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke in that he proposes a repub lican constitution as the best form of government. Republics enable all citizens to express their moral autonomy in the public forum through political action. 181 Kant proposes republicanism as the preferred or ideal form of civil government because its political principle is such that it separates the executive power (the government) from the legislative power. 182 The constitution of the United States is organized in this manner in the sense that th e presidency, which is the executive power, has separate powers from Congr ess, the legislative body. The republican form of government has three important characteristics for Kant. First, it respects the freedom of its citiz ens, where freedom refers to th e right not to obey any external laws but those to which citizens are able to gi ve their consent. Second, all citizens can depend on a single source of legislation. Third, it respects the law of equality of all citizens, where equality in a nation refers to a "relation among citizen s whereby no citizen can be bound by a law, unless all are subject to it simultaneously and in the very same way." 183 Democracy "the power of a people," in Kants view, is the same as despotism because the executive power is set up in such manner that all citizens make decisions about or against one. Consequently, the general will of the majority contradicts itself and the principle of autonomy. 184 Kant sees the republican form of governmen t as necessary not only to end conflict and foster peace but also to bring about the kingdom of ends or the ideal state in every nation and 180 Kant, "Peace" 112, Ak. 348. 181 Kant, "Peace" 112, Ak. 350. 182 Kant, "Peace" 112, Ak. 350. 183 Kant, "Peace" 112, Ak. 350.
37 thus preserve the status of hu mans as autonomous moral agents. In a state that has a republican constitution, citizens must consent to go to war and thus "it is natu ral that they consider all its calamities before committing themselves to so risky a game." 185 Because citizens will not go to war for insignificant causes, as a ruler in a nonrepublican constitution could, hostilities and wars would eventually stop and so would the drain of resources to recover from the devastations of war. 186 In the state of peace, public freedom of di scourse would cultivate enlightenment, peoples ability to think independently. 187 To be specific, Kant thinks th at people can become independent thinkers if they rely on thei r own understanding provided they outgrow their self-imposed immaturity, which he defines as "the lack of resolve and courage to us e understanding, without guidance from another." 188 Kant views timidity and laziness as reasons for peoples immaturity, even after they reach the physical age of maturity, which makes it possible for others to make decisions for them. 189 This is unacceptable to Kant because he advances the view that humans are and ought to be self-governing agents. Kant elevated the concept of self-governance to the revolutionary level because he thought that humans are autonom ous. He did this by showing how humans alone can legislate moral law by using their own reason and wills, wh ich places them under moral law, and permits them to accept moral law. The possession of the self-legislating will makes humans autonomous beings. Kants view of humans as autonomous ma kes him relevant in philosophical ethics today and has influenced the content of important in ternational documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which I will address next. 184 Kant, "Peace" 114, Ak. 352. 185 Kant, "Peace" 113, Ak. 351. 186 Kant, "Peace" 113, Ak. 351. 187 Immanuel Kant, "What is Enlightenment?" 1784, trans. Ted Humphrey, Perpetual Peace and Other Essays (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983) 41, Ak. 35. 188 Kant, "Enlightenment" 41, Ak. 35. 189 Kant, "Enlightenment" 41, Ak. 35.
38 Political Documents The basic principles of freedom and equality inherent in natural law philosophies, challenged the absolutist, coercive government s that dominated Britain, France, and their colonies. Their absolute power made people demand natural rights precisely because the absolutist governments denied them. 190 The following documents emerged in response to those oppressive regimes: Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), United St ates Declaration of Independence (1776), the Bill of Rights (1789), and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789). Section one of the Virginia D eclaration of Rights states that "all men are by nature equally free and independe nt and have certain inherent rights." Similar language appears in the Declaration of Independence of the Unite d States, a radical document that aimed to establish equality among people by establishing "certain inalienable rights for all, [among them] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." 191 The inalienable rights were to serve as basic rights that no one can violate. The role of governments was to secure these rights, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed. 192 The American Declaration of Independence and Frances own intellectuals inspired the leaders of French Revolution to introduce a decl aration of rights for the world, not only for France. 193 Frances Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen proclaimed natural, inalienable, and sacred rights. It also proclaimed that "Men are born and continue to be free by possessing equal rights," and that th ese rights included liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression." The Declaration also outlined poli tical rights to vote and partake in the political process. It also specified certain civil rights such as equality in regards to law, the right of protection from arbitrary arrest and punishment, the right to be presumed innocent until found guilty, the right to freedom of expression, a nd the right to property, among others. The politicians were responsible to people and the law was designed to protect the peoples rights. 190 Lauren, Evolution 16. 191 Declarations of Freedom and Human Dignity ed. Lieselotte Anderson, Second, The World of the Mind II (Millis: Agora Publications, Inc., 1997) 11. 192 Declarations 11. 193 Lauren, Evolution 17.
39 Any society that does not guarant ee rights and the separation of pow ers, the Declaration did not consider to have a constitution. 194 The language of the Declaration became the official language of Frances new constitution, t hus transforming natural rights into positive national law. Consequently, the legitimacy of the government was now a derivation from "the guarantee of individual rights under the law." 195 The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen prompted other efforts to establish individual rights, among them the ratification of the ten amendments to the constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights. The amendments were necessary to secure some of the rights of concern to the drafters of the Declaration of Independence. 196 The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to limit the power of the federal govern ment. The amendments delineated such rights as the right of freedom of speech, the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state, the right against unreasona ble search and seizure, and th e right against cruel and unusual punishment. The Civil War Amendments abolished slavery and enacted the equal rights for the former slaves (1865). The fourteenth amendment ( 1868) forbids state or government to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. 197 The fifteenth amendment (1870) extended voting rights to black men. At the time that the ratification of the Bill of Rights took place, Thomas Paine published the Rights of Man. Drawing on the theory of natural law and natural rights, he introduced the term "human rights, possibly for the first time" 198 He argued that "unive rsal natural right for individuals provided the original source of all subsequent ri ghts for members of society." 199 As Paine clearly expressed it, "Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, nor to have fewer rights than he had befo re, but to have these rights better secured." 200 Moreover, he made an explicit response to the Frances Declaration that clarifies the important relationship 194 Declarations 21-24. 195 Lauren, Evolution 18. 196 David Lyons, "Human Rights and the General Welfare," Philosophy and Public Affairs 6.2 (Winter 1977): 113. 197 Fred R. Harris, America's Democracy: The Ideal and the Reality Third (Glenview: Scott, 1986) 100. 198 Lauren, Evolution 20; Thomas Paine, Thomas Paine: Collected Writings (New York: Library Classics, 1995) 445. 199 Lauren, Evolution 20. 200 Paine, Writings 464.
40 between rights and duties that still holds today: "A Declaration of Rights, is by reciprocity, a Declaration of Duties, also. Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another: and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess." 201 International Human Rights Documents The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in Paris in 1948, is a declaration of international human rights, designed to introdu ce a vision of universal principles regarding human rights. The preamble introduces the con cept of the inherent di gnity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the f oundation for freedom, justice, and peace in the world. It also proposes to foster cr eation of a world in which human beings would enjoy freedom of speech and be lief and freedom from fear. 202 Achieving this purpose has been the highest ideal of the common people because disregard and contempt for human rights have led to cruel acts that have outraged the cons cience of humankind. The preamble also reaffirms that the people of the United Nations have faith in basic human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of me n and women. A part of this reaffirmation is promotion of social progress and of better standa rds of life in larger freedom. Moreover, the member states of the United Nations pledge to promote the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Fi nally, the preamble asserts that a routine understanding of human rights and freedoms is of preeminent importance for the complete actualization of the solemn promise mentioned above. 203 The thirty articles of the Universal Declar ation of Human Rights start with two basic points in the first and second articles, which promote equality. Article one proclaims that All human beings are born free and equal in dign ity and rights." Article two proclaims that Everyone is entitled to all th e rights and freedoms presented in the Declaration without any distinction such as race, gender, color, religion, language, political or other views, national or 201 Paine, Writings 509. 202 Declarations 35. 203 Declarations 35.
41 social origin, property, birth or other situation. Some of the other articles speak of civil rights, such as everyones "right to life, liberty, and th e security of person, the right to be free from slavery or servitude, and the right to be free from "torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Other articles of th e Declaration mention important political rights such as peoples right to have nationality. Article twenty one is particularly important because it gives everyone the right to take part in the government of their nation, either directly or through freely chosen representatives. The Declaration also contained articles focusing on economic, social, and cultural rights, essential for human dignity and the independent development of personality, thus giving them the same importa nce as civil and politic al rights. These rights included rights to social securit y, the right to work, the right to equal pay for equal work. Finally, article twenty nine sets the important limita tions regarding the ones rights and freedoms: In the exercise of ones rights and free doms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of mora lity, public order and th e general welfare in a democratic society. International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultura l Rights (1966) and International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (1966) are the prog eny of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They perfected the formulations of these rights and gave them the status of international law. 204 Article one of the Intern ational Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and In ternational Covenant on Civil a nd Political Rights both state that All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of this right they freely determine their political st atus and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. These international documents regarding human rights, freedoms, and human dignity specify the ideals for nations to achieve. Many nations often do not follow those ideals, which sometimes results in gross vi olations of rights and free doms of many innocent people. Nevertheless, there is a continuous effort to promote and implemen t those ideals in the political 204 James Nickel, Making Sense of Human Rights (Berkley: U of California P, 1987) xi.
42 and social arenas. And although Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, and Kant wanted world peace and aimed toward it in their writings, it wa s Kants ideas for world peace in Perpetual Peace that appear to have found most expression in the Universal Declarat ion of Human Rights. At the time that the Universal Declar ation of Human Rights was developing, the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals were in progress. During these trials the potential for abuse of human rights in medical research b ecame apparent, and subs equently the idea of consent was born. The notion of consent has mainta ined a prominent position in biomedical ethics since then. In the late 1950's the term informed consent appeared and the doctrine became a focus of examination in the early seventies. As we will see in the next chapter, the idea of autonomy or autonomous action provided a ba sis for the concept of informed consent.
Chapter 3 A Theory of Informed Consent The history of informed consent is an essential component in several fields that include law, moral philosophy, social and behavioral sciences, and health professions. Law and moral philosophy have dominated the field in recent years. 1 Accordingly, there are two main types of informed consent: the institutional or legal form of informed consent, which Tom Beauchamp, Ruth Faden, and James Childress call effective consent, and informed consent as respect for autonomy or as autonomous authorization, according to the same authors. Effective consent defines the "social rules of consent that must obtain legally valid consent from patients and subjects before proceeding with therapeutic procedures or research." 2 Given these rules, informed consents are not necessarily autonomous acts, and occasionally are not substantial authorizations. In this sense, informed consent refers "only to an institutionally or legally effective authorization," according to the prevailing rules. 3 Informed consent as respect for autonomy or as autonomous choice refers to an informed consent as an autonomous authorization (that individuals give) to permit medical intervention or of involvement in research." 4 Informed consent in this sense requires more than persons explicit agreement or compliance with a certain proposal; it requires informed and voluntary consent. 5 The focus of the law concerning informed consent is much narrower then the philosophical model. The legal model has two main components, competence and disclosure, while the philosophical model includes understanding, voluntariness and, some suggest, consent, in addition to competence and disclosure components. 1 Faden, History 3. 2 Tom L. Beauchamp, and James F. Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Fifth Edition (New York: Oxford, 2001) 78. 3 Beauchamp, Principles 78. 4 Beauchamp, Principles 78. 5 Beauchamp, Principles 78. 43
44 Informed consent began as a legal doctrine which has philosophical implications and is subject to philosophical justific ation. The legal doctrine expre sses some ideas of philosophical justification, such as the right to privacy and bodily integrity. Whet her this right is primary or it originates from other more basic rights is a matter of debate, but it is a mainstay of Western liberal political philosophy. When we apply the right to privacy to a purposive practice such as medical care, it becomes the right of self-determi nation. In bioethics, self-determination relies on the ethical principle of autonomy in the sense disc ussed in the previous chapter, i.e., that moral agents are self-governing agents and others must respect them as such. As we will see later, an examination of informed consent in terms of self-determination and autonomy provides a much richer foundation than the one ba sed on privacy, as in the law. 6 For the exposition of th e theory of informed consent I wi ll rely on two main works in the field, Ruth Faden's and Tom Beauchamp's A History and Theory of Informed Consent, which draws on twenty years of research on this topi c by both legal and philos ophical thinkers and in the contexts of medical practice, medical research, and social-science research. 7 Also, as Stephen Wear points out, Faden and Beauchamp h ave provided the most searching, sustained, and philosophically sophisticated discussion of informed consent to date. 8 I will also rely on Beauchamp's and James Childress' Principles of Biomedical Ethics 9 because it addresses in more detail other principles of biomedical ethics (besides the principle of autonomy) such as nonmaleficence, justice, and, in particular, the principle of be neficence, which has been the dominant principle of medical ethics for centuries. Main Moral Principles Regarding Informed Consent In moral philosophy four principles are partic ularly relevant to biomedical ethics: the principle for respect for autonomy (self-governance) the principle of nonma leficence (obligation 6 Moreno, "Informed Consent" 688-90. 7 Howard Brody, The Healer's Power (New Haven: Yale UP, 1992) 84. 8 Stephen Wear, Informed Consent: Patient Autonom y and Clinician Beneficence Within Health Care (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1998) 85.
45 not to harm others), the princi ple of beneficence (obligation not to harm others and also to contribute to their welfare), and th e principle of justice (fairness, equality, entitlements). For the theory of informed consent as it applies to c linical settings, the principles of respect for autonomy and beneficence are most relevant and w ill be the focus of my discussion of this and the subsequent chapter. Respect for Autonomy Literature on informed consent most often mentions respect for autonomy as the moral principle, and describes it as a principle em bedded in "the liberal Western tradition of the importance of individual freedom and choice, both for political life and for personal development." 10 From its original meaning of self-ru le or self-governance of independent Hellenic city-states of Ancient Greece, autonomy has since included indivi duals and has picked up various meanings such as self-governance, individual choice, privacy, freedom of the will, liberty rights, being ones own pers on, and directing ones behavior. In the context of this paper, the focus will be on the concept of individual autonomy, which refers to self-governance or self-rule explored in the previous chapter. Besides Kant, who championed the idea of autonomy as self-governan ce, we can find the basic idea of autonomy in writings of contemporary philosophers such as Isai ah Berlin, Joel Feinberg, and Thomas E. Hill. This definition describes individual autonomy as self-rule that is free from both controlling interferences by others and from limitations such as inadequate understanding, that prevent meaningful choice. 11 In other words, the autonomous person acts freely in conformity with a self-chosen plan, similar to the way that a s overeign government determines its policies and manages its state. In contrast, a person with decreased autonomy is incapable of deciding or acting on her or his wishes or pl ans. Also, others might be cont rolling this person, at least in some respect. People in institutions such as prisons or mental hospitals have diminished 9 Fifth edition. 10 Faden, History 7. 11 Beauchamp, Principles 58.
46 autonomy because mental incapacity limits auto nomy and coercive institutionalization obviously limit prisoners autonomy. This distinction betw een autonomy and diminished autonomy is essential because almost all theories of autonom y concur that two consid erations are important for acting autonomously: liberty or independence from controlling influences and agency or the capacity for intentional action. 12 The Nature of Autonomy Philosophers sometimes classify the principl e of respect for autonomy as a positive or negative obligation. As a negative obligation, this principle st ates that "Autonomous action should not be subjected to controlling constraints by others." 13 In this form, the principle of respect for autonomy expresses gene ral, theoretical obligation that excludes certain clauses, such as that we must respect indivi duals views and rights to the extent that th eir thoughts and actions do not seriously harm others. To become a practical guide for conduct, it is necessary to adjust the principle of respect for autonomy to partic ular contexts, which will include well-founded exclusions. 14 On the other hand, as a positive obligation, the principle of respect for autonomy requires "respectful treatment in disclosing informa tion and fostering autonomous decision making." 15 At times we have an obligation to increase availa ble choices to others because many autonomous actions could not happen without other peoples' tangible collaboration in increasing available options. In health care, respect for autonomy oblig ates professionals to in volve their patients or research subjects, "to disclose informati on, to probe for and insure understanding and voluntariness, and to foster adequate decision making." 16 As some contemporary Kantians claim, the maxim that "we treat others as ends requires that we assist persons in achieving their ends 12 Beauchamp, Principles 58. 13 Beauchamp, Principles 64. 14 Beauchamp, Principles 64. 15 Beauchamp, Principles 64. 16 Beauchamp, Principles 64.
47 and foster their capacities as agents, not merely that we avoid treating them solely as means to our ends." 17 This positive obligation to respect people's autonomy requires that health care professionals assist their patient s in overcoming their sense of dependence and attain as much control over their lives as possible and as much as they de sire. Physicians and other medical professionals are sometimes tempted to preserve patients dependency in lieu of promoting their autonomy. This is inconsistent with professiona ls obligations to their patients or research subjects such as fiduciary duty. 18 The principle of respect for autonomy is a prima facie principle a nd, therefore, has the same, and only the same prima facie claim, which allows it to override other valid moral principles of similar importance such as bene ficence and justice. In other words, no moral principle has an absolute value that allows it to override other moral princi ples in all situations. Principles of beneficence and justice, and al so some role responsibilities such as best professional care, can sometimes override the prin ciple of autonomy when there is a sufficient cause. 19 This classification of autonomy does not dimi nish its position in morality. Its role is to insure that we retain our main moral values such as that we treat each other with respect, that we retain our moral entitlements, and that we have protection against those who want to harm us. 20 It might be difficult, however, to live in a community in which the sole goal is autonomy is an overriding principle. 21 The moral community developed on other moral principles like beneficence and justice and normally on a solid commitment to the we lfare of the public. Autonomy has been the central va lue of medical and research ethics for the past three decades and is "the single most important value for informed consent. 22 Overvaluing or undervaluing 17 Barbara Herman, "Mutual Aid and Respect for Persons," Ethics 94.4 (1984): 600-02; Beauchamp, Principles 64. 18 Beauchamp, Principles 64. 19 Faden, History 18. 20 Faden, History 18. 21 Daniel Callahan, "Autonomy: A Moral Good, Not a Moral Obsession," Hastings Center Report 14 (October 1984): 40-42. 22 Faden, History 18.
48 autonomy, however, causes serious problems for informed consent. 23 I will address this issue in more detail in a later chapter. Autonomy and Informed Consent Connection Given that the basis of informed consent is the concern to protect and enable peoples autonomous or self-determining choice, it is im portant to show how autonomous action can adequately express what precisely informed c onsent protects. To do so it is important to differentiate between autonomous people's and actions, and between substantially autonomous actions and those that are less so. Discerning Between Persons and Actions "Consents and refusals are actions" in the sense that "informed consents are acts of autonomous authorizingand in the case of refusals, of declining to authorize." 24 There is somewhat of a paradox in the relation of au tonomous people and autonomous actions. Both autonomous (those who normally but not always act autonomously) and nonautonomous people (those who normally but not always fail to ac t autonomously) can perform autonomous acts. 25 Although the characteristics of an autonomous person include capaciti es of self-governance such as understanding, deciding, reasoning, and i ndependent choice, for the purpose of decisionmaking it is importa nt to concentrate on the autonomous choice, which is about actual self-governing instead of capac ity for self-governing. Possessi ng certain capacities does not mean that autonomous people will always be able to control themselves in their choices. Illness or depression, ignorance, coercion, or conditions that restrict op tions may temporarily limit selfgoverning capacity. When autonomous individual s sign a consent form without reading or 23 Faden, History 18. 24 Faden, History 235. 25 Faden, History 235.
49 understanding the form, they fail to give informed consent even though they are qualified to act autonomously. Likewise, people who are not generally autonomous can sometimes make autonomous choices. People in mental institutio ns can state preferences for meals, make telephone calls to friends, and refuse medicine. 26 Degrees of Autonomous Action The concept of autonomy has a long hist ory in philosophy, in which two models dominated, a freedom model and an authenticity model. Besides Kant, different German and British idealists, as well as Is aiah Berlin, advanced the freed om model of autonomy. Stanley Ben, Gerald Dworkin, and various existentialist writers advanced the authenticity model of autonomy, which refers to persons "actions, character, beli efs, and motivation." 27 Theories in both models depend on similarities to "the aut onomy of political states, where autonomy has variously referred to popular sovereignty, citizen participation, i ndependent nationhood, nongovernance by alien forces, contro l by citizens, and the like. 28 Other theories of autonomy do not utilize political theory as a background. 29 The model of autonomy advanced for th e purpose of informed consent draws on preceding theories of autonomy but also differs from them in three major ways. 30 Under this model, autonomous action is an action that normal choosers perf orm by acting intentionally, with understanding, and without controlling influences that determine their action." 31 In other words, three basic conditions charac terize autonomous action: inte ntionality, understanding, and noncontrol. "Intentionality is a conceptually necessary cond ition of autonomous action." 32 It (intentionality) cannot be a matter of degree because acts are either intentional or unintentional. The two later conditions, understanding and absence of controlling influence, can be of higher or 26 Beauchamp, Principles 59. 27 Faden, History 237-38. 28 Faden, History 237-38. 29 Faden, History 237-38. 30 Beauchamp, Principles 59. 31 Beauchamp, Principles 59.
50 lesser degree. Understanding needs to be substan tial or adequate, and influence needs not to be completely absent. Substantially Autonomous Actions The literature on informed often cites objections to agents or patients ability to "really understand" that to which they are consenting. Those objections often imply that only "full autonomy" represents autonomy. Un der this conception of autonomy, patients decisions are not informed consents unless they can show comple te understanding of issues and full independence from the influence of others. This is a concepti on of ideal rather than of adequate autonomy. 33 An autonomous action requires only "a subs tantial degree of unde rstanding and freedom from constraint, not a full understanding or a complete absence of influence." 34 Limiting patients decision making to the ideal of fully autonomous decision making deprives it of any meaningful place in the practical world because peoples actions ar e seldom, if ever completely autonomous. In other words, the requirements for information and for the absence of controlling influences for health care should not exceed those needed for a financial investment, buying a house, hiring a new employee, or choosing a uni versity. Those are consequential decisions and are usually substantially autonomous but not completely autonomous. 35 Beneficence One of the requirements of morality is that in addition to treating others as autonomous and refraining from harming them, tha t we contribute to their welfare." 36 Such actions are beneficial actions and moral ph ilosophy classifies them as acts of beneficence or simply as Beauchamp, Principles 165. 32 Faden, History 242. 33 Faden, History 240. 34 Beauchamp, Principles 59. 35 Beauchamp, Principles 60. 36
51 "beneficence." While many acts of beneficence do not impose obligation, the principle of beneficence imposes a moral obligation to help others advance their essential and lawful interests. 37 In other words, the principle of beneficen ce requires that moral agents take positive steps to help others, not merely to avoid harming others as the principle of nonmaleficence requires. 38 For the purposes of this paper, the focus will be on two principles of beneficence: positive beneficence and utility. Those two princi ples require different actions from moral agents. The principle of positive beneficence demands that agents actively benefit others. On the other hand, the principle of utility demands that agents balance benefits and disadvantages to produce the best outcome. These distinctions ar e important because c onflicts occur between respect for autonomy and beneficence in paternalistic refusals. 39 The principle of utility is a necessary extension of the principle of positive beneficence because the moral life creates risks or incurs costs in addition to producing any benefits or eliminating any harm. Beneficence requires that we assess which actions produce sufficient benefits to justify their costs. 40 The principle of utility mentioned here is not the same principle as "the classical utilitarian principle of utility, which is an absolute or preeminent principle." 41 This principle is one among other prima facie principles, limited to equalizing probable afterm aths of actions such as benefits, harms, and costs, to realize the highe st possible benefit. The advantage of this limited principle of utility is that it delim its the charge that critics of u tilitarianism advance, i.e., that it allows a society to override the in terests and rights of individual s, in favor of its (societal) interests. For instance, an unconstrained principle of utility in biomedical ethics suggests that dangerous research on human subjects can and should be used, provided that the benefit to society outweighs the harm to individuals. As a prima facie principle, other principles sufficiently limit the principle of utility to avoid burdens of the classical utilitarian principle of utility. 42 37 Beauchamp, Principles 166. 38 Beauchamp, Principles 165. 39 Beauchamp, Principles 165. 40 Beauchamp, Biomedical 166. 41 Beauchamp, Principles 166. 42 Beauchamp, Principles 166-67.
52 Paternalism In the field of medicine professionals oblig ations have always been the obligations to beneficence. The most famous expression of this responsibility is the Hippocratic Oath: "Help, or at least do no harm." 43 The tradition allowed physicians to rely almost entir ely on their own judgments about their patients needs for treatment, information, and consultation." 44 Recent years, however, show increased a ssertions of patients rights to make autonomous judgments about their medical destiny. The problem of patern alism became more apparent as "the assertions of autonomy rights increased. 45 The central problem of biomedical ethics is the debate whether re spect for autonomy of patients should have precedence over professional beneficence dedicated to those patients. 46 According to some, the principle of respect fo r autonomy might be the primary (and perhaps the sole) source of "autonomy rights for patients, physicians' obligations to the patient of disclosure, seeking consent, confidentiality, and privacy." 47 Others think that pr ofessionals obligatory beneficence commits physicians to act mainly for the patients medical benefit, not to cultivate their patients autonomous decision making. This debate between the autonomy model and the beneficence model relates to the failure to differen tiate between two different views of principles of beneficence. Some see beneficence as competi ng with the principle of autonomy, while others see beneficence as inclusive of the patients' aut onomous choices, "in the sense that the patients preferences help to determine wh at counts as a medical benefit." 48 Defending one principle against the other or designating one princi ple as absolute in medical field cannot resolve the debate whet her one principle shoul d override the other. Biomedical ethics has no preeminent principle, not even the obligation to act in the best interest of the patient. Additionally, no one has the overr iding authority, neither the physician nor the 43 Hippocrates, Epidemics (Cambridge: Harvard Univers ity Press, 1923), vol. 1 of Hippocrates ed. W.H.S. Jones vol. 1, p. 165. 44 Beauchamp, Principles 176. 45 Beauchamp, Principles 176. 46 Beauchamp, Principles 176. 47 Beauchamp, Principles 176. 48 Beauchamp, Principles 176.
53 patient. Beneficence supplies the main goal and basi s of medicine and health care by advancing the best interest of the patient, while "Res pect for autonomy sets moral limits on the professionals' actions in pursuit of this goal." 49 To see that these two positions are consistent, it is necessary to look at conceptual a nd other aspects of paternalism. There are different definitions of paternalis m, among them that all paternalistic actions are those that restrict autonomous choice. The prevailing view in current literature on paternalism is that Paternalism is the inte ntional overriding of one persons known preferences or actions by another person, where the person who overrides justifies the action by the goal of benefitting or avoiding harm to the person w hose preferences or actions are overridden. 50 This definition of paternalism is not prescr iptive and as such it does not presuppose that "paternalism is either justified or unjustifie d. This definition assumes an act of beneficence similar to parental beneficence. It does not, how ever, assume that the beneficence is justified, misplaced, (or) obligatory." 51 Moral Issues Regarding Medical Paternalism The history of medical ethi cs shows that both the principle of beneficence and nonmaleficence (an obligation not to inflict harm on othe rs) provided the foundation for physicians paternalistic conduct. Fo r instance, physicians have hist orically held the view that disclosing certain information can cause harm to their patients and that medical ethics obligates them to avoid causing such harm. Some philo sophers would find physicians paternalistic conduct justified under certain conditions. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), for instance, stro ngly opposed paternalism, yet he thought that "considered beneficent interventions" in peop le's actions are justified in certain situations. Mill claimed that restraining others to insure that they are acting intentionally and with sufficient knowledge of the consequences of their actions, is a justifiable action. A good example of such 49 Beauchamp, Principles 177. 50 Beauchamp, Principles 178. 51 Beauchamp, Principles 178.
54 intervention is when others are starting to cr oss a hazardous bridge. Once they know the dangers of crossing an unsafe bridge, they should be free to decide what action they might take. Mill thought that this temporary intervention is not an actual interference with lib erty, and thus he did not view it as paternalistic. Because Mill thought that liberty meant doing what one desires, he assumed that those crossing the bridge would not want to fall into th e river and would want others to warn them of danger. 52 Under the definition of paternalis m cited in this paper, however, temporary interference qualifies as paternalistic. It is much easier to justify paternalistic intervention in the absence of substantial autonomy then when such autonomy is presen t. Although much literature on paternalism opposes the idea of justified paternalistic inte rvention, others like Beauchamp and Childress claim that in some situations "beneficence . . provides grounds for justifiably restricting autonomous actions as well as nonautonomous ones." 53 Weak and Strong Paternalism Weak paternalism refers to actions in which, "an agent intervenes on grounds of beneficence or nonmaleficence only to prevent substantially nonvoluntary conductthat is, to protect people against thei r own substantially nonautonomous action(s). Substantially nonvoluntary or nonautonomous actions include cas es of consent or refusal that are not adequately informed, severe depression that precludes rational deliberation, and addiction that prevents free choice and action." 54 In other words, in weak patern alism, people's abilities are less than optimal, i.e., they are in some way compromised. 55 By contrast, strong paternalism refers to interventions that a im to benefit a person, regardless of the fact that "p ersons risky choices and actions are informed, voluntary, and autonomous." 56 In strong paternalism, an agent refu ses to agree with others "autonomous 52 Beauchamp, Principles 181; John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Macmillan, 1956) 117. 53 Beauchamp, Principles 181. 54 Beauchamp, Principles 181. 55 Beauchamp, Principles 181. 56 Beauchamp, Principles 181.
55 desires, choices, and actions when there is a n eed to protect that pers on. The strong paternalist will restrict information available to the pers on or will override the persons informed and voluntary choices. These choices need not be fully informed or voluntary, but for the interventions to qualify as strong paternalism, the choices must be s ubstantially autonomous. 57 Some argue that weak paternalism is not real paternalism. This argument has merit because protecting others from the harm that certain conditions may cause to them, and that is beyond their control, is noncontroversial. Paternalism is about s ituations in which we can and should protect others from self-caused harm. 58 Justification of Patern alism and Antipaternalism Philosophers have defended three main pos itions related to th e justifiability of paternalism: antipaternalism, a justified paternalis m that mainly relies on the principle of respect for autonomy, and a justified paternalism that ma inly relies on the principles of beneficence. 59 Proponents of all three positions find some ac tions of weak paternalism justified because substantially autonomous actions are absent. 60 Preventing those who are under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs from committing suicides woul d be justified because it would protect them from self-caused harm. Antipaternalism opposes strong paternalistic interventions because they infringe on individual rights and overl y limit autonomous choice. 61 Giving paternalistic au thority to the state or to a class of people, e.g., physicians, which ma y result in serious adverse consequences to others, is one reason for rejecti ng strong paternalism. The more important reason for rejection of strong paternalism is that people retain authority over actions that may affect their lives or wellbeing. Strong paternalistic actions show disre spect toward individuals as autonomous agents and fail to treat them as moral equals, treating th em instead as less than independent determiners 57 Beauchamp, Principles 181. 58 Beauchamp, Principles 181. 59 Beauchamp, Principles 182. 60 Beauchamp, Principles 182. 61 Beauchamp, Principles 182.
56 of their own good. 62 If others are able to impose their perception of good on us, they fail to show us respect, even if they can benefit us a nd have a better idea of our needs than we may have. 63 Strong paternalism is perilous because people can misuse it. 64 Under some conditions, however, a narrow range of strongly paternalistic act s is justified. 65 This position excludes institutional and public policies of strong paternalism and includes only specific acts of strong paternalism. 66 In health care strong paternalism is us eful and justifiable if and only if the following provisions are present: (1 ) A patient is at risk of a significant, preventable harm. (2) The paternalistic action will probab ly prevent the harm. (3) The projected benefits to the patient of the paternalistic action outweigh its risks to the patient. (4) The least autonomy-restrictive alternative that will secure the bene fits and reduce the risks is adopted. 67 In medicine, paternalism is problematic because it is difficu lt correctly to specify and balance physician beneficence and patient autonomy in the physicianpatient relationship. The problem of medical paternalism is messy and complicated partly be cause it involves coherence in judgments, which is difficult to attain. In other words, judging whi ch paternalistic actions are justifiable requires persons with good judgment in ha ndling contingent conflicts. 68 I will address the difficulties of medical paternalism in physician-patient relationship more specifi cally in a later chapter. Legal Theory of Informed Consent When did the legal theory of info rmed consent begin to develop? In the late 1950's judges began to ask a new, almost revolutionary, question: Are patients entitled not only to know what the doctor proposes to do but also to decide whether an intervention is acceptable in li ght of its risks and benefits and 62 Beauchamp, Principles 182. 63 Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978) 262-63. 64 Mill, On Liberty. 65 Beauchamp, Principles 185. 66 Beauchamp, Principles 186. 67 Beauchamp, Principles 186.
57 the available alternatives, including treat ment. Moreover, in theory, patients had always been entitled to ask whatever questions they pleas ed. What judges now groped toward was the proposition, eventu ally formalized in the doctrine of informed consent, that physicians should be placed under an affirmative duty to acquaint patients with the important risks and plausible alternatives to a proposed procedure. 69 Since those early beginnings, the co urts have used two legal theories to deal with the obligations of physicians toward their patients, the theory of battery (unconsented to uching) and the theory of negligence (a failure to use reasonable or due care that results in unintentional harm). The omission to fulfill legal obligations, regardless of the legal theory on which obligation is based, leads to either liability to punishment or an obligation to compensation. The theory of battery holds that "the defe ndant is liable for any unintentional act that results in physical contact for which plainti ff has not given express or implied permission." 70 The charge of battery does not require ill intent and injury, but one of these conditions has to be true in order to make legal action worthwhile. A fam ous statement from a legal decision issued in 1914 seems to back the right to self-determination: "Every huma n being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without patie nts consent, commits an assault for which he is liable in damages." 71 The theory of negligence holds that the defendant is liable fo r a careless action or omission when the defendant had an obligation toward the plaintiff and careless action or omission causes an injury. 72 The standard of reasonable care is the level of care that a common person would view as proper conduct. On the other hand, the profession is the group that sets the standards for determining the level of due care in professional neglig ence or malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a physician viol ates the standard of due care, including an omission to properly disclose in formation about a specific pro cedure. In case of physicians' 68 Beauchamp, Principles 187. 69 Katz, Silent 59. 70 Faden, History 28. 71 Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospitals, 211 105 N. E. 92, 93 (New York 1914): 125, 126: 125
58 negligence in informed consent, an action would ha ve to show that a physician violated a duty of "due care to inform a patient, that this breach resu lted in a financially measurable injury, and that a reasonable person would not have consented. 73 In informed consent liability, negligence is a preferred legal theory because battery is inherently antisocial and lacks a credible perspective from whic h to evaluate physician conduct. A minority of legal critics argue s that the theory of battery explains the philosophy of selfdetermination better than the negligence theory. Fo r instance, an important issue is whether an omission to secure consent without resulting harm should count as "a dignitary injury to bodily integrity" that requires compensation. A battery theory implies that even for medical reasons, touching without consent would require compen sation, while a negligence theory would not. 74 The drawback of the legal theory of inform ed consent is that it began by advancing the principle of self-determination bu t its specific focus shifted to to rts, or wrongful acts, such as battery or negligence, which may or may not require compensation. Consequently, law "provides little clear specific guidance rega rding how informed consent shoul d actually pursue such selfdetermination." 75 Clinicians conduct in response to the law is counterproductive in the sense that they resort to tactics such as to hyperinform, "just to be safe," whic h leads to their patients information overload. Consequently, as many writers have pointed out, the commitment of law to self-determination is lukewarm at most. 76 Additionally, insofar as clinicians accept the laws own orientation regarding informed consent, the "d amage control" form of informed consent is a mere formality in the sense that physicians do no t engage patients in the decision making. If the law leans toward treating informed consent mainly as an item within malpractice actions, then it is unsurprising that clinicians responses are defensive. Finall y, the law seldom considers the seriousness of the assault that illness might make on personal autonomy. The law thus provides clinicians with significantly unr ealistic vision of patients as decision makers, and consequently weakens the credibility of its message to those whom it needs to persuade the most. 77 72 Faden, History 28. 73 Faden, History 29. 74 Moreno, "Informed Consent" 688-89. 75 Wear, Consent 66. 76 Katz, Silent 48-84. 77 Wear, Consent 25.
59 Because the laws purpose is to establish wh at is minimally necessary in our interactions with each other, it is unrealistic to expect a co mprehensive standard for this interaction. Forcing lawyers to define "operationally precise sta ndards" for evaluating competence or clinical definitions of medical facts, such as what constitutes a "medical emergency," does not seem prudent. Lawyers can provide a conceptual framework and can also identify unacceptable practices, but ultimately clinical experience and judgment, in accord with bioethical principles, must prevail. 78 Given that law falls short of providing an e ffective model of informed consent in clinical medicine, let look at moral philosophy and what it ha s to offer in terms of ethical principles that could help establish respect for patient autonomy as core value in medical care. The Meaning and Elements of Moral Theory of Informed Consent Informed consent as respect for autonomy is a persons consent to a medical intervention or to an involvement as a subject in biomedical research. 79 In this sense informed consent requires more than persons explicit agreem ent or compliance with a certain proposal; it necessitates informed and voluntary consent. Moreover, informed consent as respect for autonomy happens "if and only if a patient or subject, with substantial understanding and in substantial absence of control by others, in tentionally authorizes a professional to do something." 80 In Mohr v. Williams a classic case regarding in formed consent, Anna Mohr consented to a surgery on her right ear. During the operation, the surgeo n decided that Annas left ear instead needed surgery and proceeded to operate on her left ear without getting her consent. A court decided that the physician shoul d have gotten Annas consent to operate on her left ear: "If a physician advises a patient to submit to a particular ope ration, and the patient weighs the dangers and risks incident to its performance, and finally consents, the patient 78 Wear, Consent 25. 79 Beauchamp, Principles 78. 80 Beauchamp, Principles 78.
60 thereby, in effect, enters into a contract authorizing the physician to operate to the extent of the consent given, but no further." 81 The elements of informed consent found in the philosophical, legal, medical, and psychological literature on informed consen t are competence, disc losure, understanding, voluntariness, and consent or authorization. For the purpose of analysis only the first four elements are necessary. Some theorists use thes e elements to define informed consent: "One gives informed consent to intervention if (and perh aps only if) one is competent to act, receives a through disclosure, comprehends the disclosu re, acts voluntarily, and consents to the intervention." 82 Competence In decision making, competence (defined as "the ability to perform a task") and autonomous decision making, as well as the validity of informed consent, are closely connected. This is important because incompetent individuals cannot give valid informed consent. 83 Competence does not need to be comprehensive for the purpose of valid consent. It is rather limited to peoples abilities to make particular decisions because every task requires a different degree of competence. For instance, people's compet ence to stand trial, to write checks, to raise dogs, or to lecture students, requires radically di fferent criteria. In the case of informed consent in medical field, individuals need to be competent to decide about treatment or about participating in research. 84 Competence may vary over time and may be intermittent. In other words, many people are incompetent to do certain task at certain time s but may be competent to execute the same task at a different time. Some illnesses cause chronic changes in intellect, memory, or language, while others such as ischemic (constriction of bl ood vessels) attack, and transient comprehensive amnesia, cause only temporary chan ges in those functions that can vary from hour to hour. If a 81 Mohr v. Williams, 95 104 N. W. 12, 15 (Minnesota 1905): 261, 265: 261, 265 82 Beauchamp, Principles 79. 83 Beauchamp, Principles 69. 84 Beauchamp, Principles 70.
61 persons' level of competence is questionable at firs t, it is prudent to evaluate his capacities such as understanding, deliberation, and coherence, over time. 85 Competent people, who are normally able to ma ke choices to help them reach their goals, will act incompetently in certain situations because they lack the necessary capacity when faced, in their view, with an assertive, powerful, a nd an authoritative figure such as a physician. For instance, a woman hospitalized wi th a severe disk problem to regulate back pain, decides to manage it by wearing a brace. This method had work ed well for her and she strongly believed it would work for her again. The physician, a prominent surgeon, and the only one in her city qualified to treat her, however, asks her to sign a consent to surgery. The woman is psychologically not able to refuse because she ve sted her hopes for recovery in this physician, whom she views as powerful and authoritative. B ecause her illness amplifies her hopes and fears, and because her personality is passive, it is psyc hologically too risky for her to act according to her desires in this situation. Even though she is normally competent to make choices, this woman lacks the capacity to choose in this situation. 86 From the above case it is apparent that th e concept of competence in decision making is closely related to that of autonomy. People are comp etent to make certain decisions if they have the capacity to comprehend relevant information, to judge the information in light of their values, to aim for a certain result, and to communicat e freely their desires to others. Although the concept of competence has a different meaning from the concept of autonomy (autonomy means self-governance, while competence means t he ability to perform certain tasks), the criteria that demarcate autonomous people are strikingly similar to those of competent ones. Two credible hypotheses stem from this similarity; fi rst, "that an autonomous person is (necessarily) a competent person (for making decisions), and se cond, that judgments abou t whether a person is competent to authorize or refuse an interven tion should be based on whether that person can choose autonomously in particular circumstances." 87 Although being competent is like other abilities, like being intelligen t or athletic, in the sense that they enable us to perform certain task s, for practical and polic y reasons we must have 85 Beauchamp, Principles 70. 86 Beauchamp, Principles 71.
62 a threshold level beneath which someones abil ities do not pass the competency test. In an emergency room, for instance, a frightened and in experienced patient is less qualified to give informed consent than a knowledgeable and expe rienced one. The range of abilities stretches from full expertise through various levels of pr oficiency, to complete ineptitude, which suggests that not all competent people are equally able to make autonomous decisions and not all incompetent ones are equally unable. Competence d ecisions divide people into those two basic groups, and thus treat people either as competent or incompetent for particular objectives. We treat those who are above the th reshold as equally competent, and those that are below the threshold as equally incompetent. For the purpos e of discovery of threshold level, health professionals can use the gatekeep ers test (competence judgment), wi th a limit set at a particular task to be performed. 88 Competence judgments distinguish be tween those who are competent to make decisions (and from whom medical professi onals can thus solicit and accept decisions) and those who are not competent (and from whom medi cal professionals should not solicit or accept decisions). 89 Disclosure From the moral point of view, informed cons ent relates more to the autonomous choices of patients than to the liability of physicians as agents of disclosure. 90 To facilitate autonomy in decisionmaking, it is essential that both health care professionals and patients ask and answer questions, which makes this process more about finding relevant information and deciding how to shape and use it, and less about disclosing inform ation. Even so, disclosure is a decisive issue because without an acceptable way to present information, patients will have an inferior foundation for decisionmaking. The professionals views, judgments, an d recommendations are frequently necessary for a sound decision. Their res ponsibility is to disclose an essential set of 87 Beauchamp, Principles 72. 88 Beauchamp, Principles 72. 89 Beauchamp, Principles 69. 90 Beauchamp, Principles 81.
63 information such as (1) the facts that patients consider relevant when deciding to refuse or consent to the proposed interventi on, (2) information the professionals believe to be relevant, (3) the professionals recommendation, (4) the purpose for seeking c onsent, and (5) the purpose and the limits of consent as an authorization act. 91 Other types of disclosure might be nece ssary. Beauchamp and Childress credit Hunter Prillaman 92 for compiling many arguments on how mu ch information professionals should disclose about a procedures risks, about its nature and benefits, and about any alternative procedures, which include new dr ugs, devices and treatments. The main issues, they suggest, fall on the informational needs of the patients rath er than on lists or classes of information. 93 Current literature on the subjec t of disclosure identifies three standards: th e professional practice standard, the reasonable person standard, and the subjective standard. The first two standards have emerged in the courts. The courts have also proposed the subjective standard but have implemented it only as a causation sta ndard, i.e., as a way of deciding whether a physicians failure to disclose specific information caused injury to the patient. The Professional Practice Standard This standard holds that a professional community determines what the customary practices regarding adequate disc losure and proposes that the proper role of the physician is to act in the best interest of the patient. The professional community also establishes the quantity and the type of information to be disclosed to th e patient. Like treatment, disclosure is a duty of physicians because their expertise and commit ment are to the welf are of the patient. Consequently, the courts count only expert testimony from members of the profession as evidence that someone has violated a patient's right to information. 94 91 Beauchamp, Principles 81. 92 Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics Fourth Edition (New York: Oxford, 1994) 147. 93 Beauchamp, Biomedical 147. 94 See Necessity and Sufficiency of Expe rt Evidence and Extent of Physicians Duty to Inform Patient of Risks of Proposed Treatment. American Law Reports 3d, 52 (1977): 1084. Physicians Duty to Inform of Risks.
64 The professional practice standard, also called a reasonable doctor standard still dominates the informed consent law, but some ha ve criticized it severely on the grounds that it makes implausible assumptions. It assumes that ther e is an actual consensus for the disclosure of information in the field of medicine. It theore tically enables physicians to withhold important information from patients if that is what the physician community endorses. Physicians could perpetuate negligence without conc ern for disciplinary actions against them. The main objection to the professional practice standard is that it undermines people's rights to autonomous choice because this standard is designed for medical j udgments, while decisions for or against medical care are strictly in patients domain. Finally, it is questionable whether physicians have developed abilities to decide what type of information serves the be st interests of their patients. No reliable data back the assumptions that physicia ns have such expertise. Thus the evaluation of risks as it relates to people's beliefs, hopes, and f ears, is not a skill that belongs to experts. The information that medical professionals submit to patients sometimes needs to be free from their (professionals') firmly established values and aims. 95 The Reasonable Person Standard The reasonable person standard requires that information disclosure conforms to what a hypothetical reasonable person would want to know about potential risks and benefits of the proposed treatment, as well as alternatives to this treatment. This standard has made advances in becoming a standard that is more likely to insure respect for patients' autonomy, and most legal jurisdictions have accepted it. 96 The authority to determine what information to disclose to patients thus shifts from physicians to patients, and the courts could find physicians guilty of negligent disclosure even if their conduct is in agreement w ith professional practice. The assumption of the reasonable person standard is that obligations to respect autonomy outweigh American Law Reports 3d, 88 (1986): 1010-25; Beauchamp 2001: 82} 95 Beauchamp, Principles 82. 96 Moreno, "Informed Consent" 689.
65 those of beneficence, and therefore this standard serves the autonomy of pa tients better than the professional practice standard. 97 Several problems plague the reasonable pe rson standard. First, no one has carefully defined the concept of the reasonable person sta ndard or the concept of "relevant information." Second, no clear guidelines exist ab out how to use this standard in practice. The concept is abstract and hypothetical, and physic ians find it difficult to use because they have to guess what a reasonable patient would need to know. Fu rthermore, very few patients actually use the information that was disclosed to them in their actual decision making. So me data indicate that patients make their decisions before and indepe ndently of the process of accepting information. Other studies show that patients often si mply accept physicians recommendations without carefully evaluating the benefits and harms of a procedure. Many pa tients consent to a procedure without any consultation about ri sks (eighty-six percent in on e study) or they agree to a procedure during the first meeting with a phys ician (eighty-two percent of candidates for supplementary breast cancer therapy in one study). 98 Although these data do not always show that patients decisions are uninformed or that disclosed information is not important because patients may believe that additional information did not change their original view regarding medical treatmen t, they do raise questions. For instance, the type of information that would be material for the individua l patient may or may not be the same information that th e reasonable patient would want. Th is creates a need for another standard. 99 The Subjective Standard The subjective standard requires that physicians disclose specific information that individual patients want. Individual needs can va ry because of specific beliefs, unusual health challenges, or special family h ealth history that requires a different type of information from 97 Beauchamp, Principles 82. 98 Beauchamp, Principles 82. 99 Beauchamp, Principles 82.
66 what the reasonable person would need. For in stance, someone with a family history of reproductive problems might want information that other people would neither want nor need before becoming engaged in research on sexua l and familial relations or before accepting employment in certain industries. If physicians know or have r eason to think that their patients want such information, then withholdi ng (information) may undermine autonomy." 100 The difficulty here is determining the degree to which a standard should fit the individual patients' needs so that disclosure would have to in clude the details specific to "the patients needs for information that patients could reasonably expect physicians to have. 101 The subjective standard obligates the physician to disclose information that a specific patient needs to know, provided there is "a reasonabl e connection between those need s and what the physician should know about the patients position." 102 The subjective standard as a legal standard is plagued with pr oblems. Nevertheless, some ethical theorists (Beauchamp, Child ress, Faden) prefer it as a moral standard of disclosure because it is the only standard that recognizes the independent informational needs of the persons. 103 The exclusive use of the subjective standard does not serve either law or ethics. For instance, patients frequently do not know what in formation would be pertinent to their needs and cannot reasonably expect physicians to do an extensive background and personality evaluation of each patient to determine what information would be pertinent. 104 In the fourth edition of the Principles, Beauchamp and Childress claim that active participation through mutual exchange of information provides a solution to the problem of disclosure. 105 The professional-practice standard a nd the reasonable-person standard are insufficient guides because what professionals normally disclose and what an objective reasonable person needs frequently fail to incorpor ate some or all of the information essential to the person that needs to decide a course of action. The role of professional and legal rules of disclosure is thus a help onl y to begin the communication pro cess. Professionals and their 100 Beauchamp, Principles 82. 101 Beauchamp, Biomedical 149. 102 Beauchamp, Principles 82. 103 Beauchamp, Principles 82. 104 Beauchamp, Principles 83. 105 Beauchamp, Biomedical 150.
67 institutions should not be content with a signed consent form unless they have devoted special care to "the process that led to it," (if they are to meet the moral requirements). 106 In the latest edition of the Principles the fifth edition, Beauchamp and Childress do not offer a solution to the problems regarding disclosure, thus providing only a theoreti cal framework for a possible operational model of informed c onsent in a medical practice. Intentional Nondisclosure Several noncontroversial legal exceptions to the rules of informed consent allow medical professionals to proceed without consent. Emergency exceptions include (public health or medical) patient incompetence, and patient waiver. 107 A controversial exception to informed consent is the therapeutic privile ge, which in the past allowed physicians greater authority to decide whether they should withhold information about the conditions of the patients for their well-being. This exception allowed physicians to withhold information from a depressed, emotionally drained, or unstable patient. 108 Some of the possible outcomes in such situations are anxiety and stress, irrational de cisions, and life endangerment. 109 In 1986, United States Supreme Court Justice Byron White, however, vigorously opposed the idea of ther apeutic privilege, suggesting that its legal status is not so secure as in the past. He claimed that It is the very nature of informed consent provisions that th ey may produce some anxiety in the patient and influence her in her choice. This is in fact their reason for existe nce, and . it is an entirely salutary reason. 110 Although different legal juri sdictions have their own formulations of therapeutic privilege, the narrowest formul a is consistent with the principle of respect for autonomy. 111 Some formulations allow physicians to withhold information if disclosure would cause any 106 Beauchamp, Biomedical 150. 107 Beauchamp, Principles 84; Moreno, "Informed Consent" 689. 108 Beauchamp, Principles 84. 109 Beauchamp, Principles 84. 110 Beauchamp, Principles 84; Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians, 106 S. Ct. 2169, at 2199200 (1986) (White, J., dissenting)
68 countertherapeutic worsening in their patients' condition, while others let clinicians withhold information if and only if the patient's knowledge of the information would have serious healthrelated consequences, (e.g. by je opardizing the treatment's success or by critically impairing relevant decision making processes). 112 The narrowest form of the therapeutic privilege is similar to an occurrence of inco mpetence, which allows physicians to withhold information only if they have sufficient reason to think that disc losure would make patients incompetent to refuse or to consent to medical interv ention. Under these circumstances the therapeutic privilege would not conflict with respect for autonomy because the patient wo uld not be able to decide autonomously at the critical point. 113 The purpose of disclosure is to make cer tain that patients und erstand the relevant information regarding their medi cal conditions and thus give va lid consent. There is, however, much debate and resistance among physicians to the idea that patients ar e able to understand such information. It is thus important to show the conceptual basis for this requirement, as well as some obstacles to achie ving substantial understanding. Understanding No consensus exists on the nature of understa nding as a philosophical concept, but for the purpose of analysis in biomedical ethics it is su fficient to say that we un derstand something if we have material information and justified, 114 relevant beliefs about consequences of our actions. 115 Both clinical experience and empirical data s how that patients understanding of information about "diagnoses, procedures, risk s, and prognoses" varies widely. 116 While some patients are calm, attentive, and interested in discussion, others are anxious or di stracted in ways that limit or impede their understanding. Illness, immaturity, and irrationality among many other things, limit 111 Beauchamp, Principles 84. 112 Beauchamp, Principles 84. 113 Beauchamp, Principles 84. 114 For discussion of justified beliefs see Jonathan Dancy, Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology. Oxford: Blackwell, 1985: 53-143. 115 Beauchamp, Principles 88.
69 patients understanding. 117 It is not necessary that ones unde rstanding of relevant information be complete, but only substantial sin ce some facts are trivial, while others are essential. Lacking knowledge of even a single risk, restricti on, or missing detail can rob us of adequate understanding. For instance, some but not all, prosta te surgeries cause steril ization. In the case of Bang v. Miller Hospital the patient, Bang, consented to prostate surgery, but he did not understand that sterilization was in evitable in his particular case His failure to understand this particular consequence undermin ed his otherwise adequate comp rehension of the nature of surgery and also negated th e validity of his consent. 118 Assuming that we understand if we have material information and have justified, relevant beliefs about the nature and consequences of our actions, 119 what constitutes material information, can patients or research subjects understand it, and what me dical professionals can do to enhance understanding? Patients need to un derstand at least the esse ntial information that physicians believe patients need to understa nd to consent to a procedure. The essential information includes diagnoses, the nature and purpose of intervention, prognoses, alternatives, risks and benefits, and physicians recommendations. Additionally, patients need to make sure they understand the terms of the authorization before permitting intervention. Without agreement about the essential elements of authorization, there is no certainty that patients made autonomous decisions because interpretations of the terms might be different. For instance, physicians and patients may have different interpretations of medi cal terms such as hernia or stroke if patients do not understand common medical definitions and conceptions. 120 Some object (especially physicians) that pa tients and research subjects cannot fully understand relevant medical information or suffici ently value its importance in making decisions about medical care or about participating in research. 121 This objection is too general to be relevant because it is based on the idea that pa tients or research subjects must have full understanding of issues. This ideal level of unders tanding is not necessary because understanding 116 Beauchamp, Principles 88. 117 Beauchamp, Principles 88. 118 Beauchamp, Principles 88. 119 Beauchamp, Principles 88. 120 Beauchamp, Biomedical 89. 121 Beauchamp, Principles 89.
70 essential information about the me dical intervention clinicians propos e is a sufficient standard of understanding. Agents are never fully informed, voluntary, or autonomous but it does not follow that they are never adequately informed, voluntary, or autonomous. 122 Another argument is that some patients ha ve very limited knowledge bases, which makes communication about new or unfamiliar procedures extremely difficult, particularly if new information includes new concep ts or cognitive constructs. 123 Proper understanding of scientific goals and procedures is partic ularly difficult and distorted. Ne vertheless, patients can often acquire adequate understanding and make decisi ons if professionals can communicate new and specialized information by drawing analogies between this information and ordinary circumstances in patients lives. Likewise, profe ssionals can express risks in qualitative as well as quantitative terms or probabilities. They can simultaneously help patients give meaning to the probabilities by comparing the pr obabilities with more common ri sks and experiences such as driving a car or using power tools. 124 Although the above strategies are helpful, th e job of enabling a pa tient to understand and appreciate the risks and benefits of me dical intervention is still formidable. 125 For instance, patients often underestimate the level of postope rative pain even though they understand that some pain accompanies surgical procedures. Additionally, some very ill patients lose the ability to judge clearly between the th reat of pain and the benefits of surgery and overwhelmingly choose surgery, while they greatly devaluate risk s. Consequently, in some ways these patients have a good understanding of facts regarding procedures that incl ude pain, but they have an inadequate unders tanding of risks. 126 122 Beauchamp, Principles 89. 123 Beauchamp, Principles 89. 124 Beauchamp, Principles 89. 125 Beauchamp, Principles 90. 126 Beauchamp, Principles 90.
71 Problems of Information Processing One of the problems of information processing that require more research is information overload because it can pr eclude adequate understanding. 127 Information overload becomes amplified if new terms are used or if inform ation is not organized in a meaningful way. Contributing to this problem is patients relian ce on selective perception, making it difficult to figure out when words have a "special meaning for them, when preconceptions distort their processing of the information, and when other biases intrude." 128 Another difficulty regarding information pr ocessing is that an inadequate level of understanding regarding risk disclosures compro mises autonomous choice. Risk disclosures often lead to distortion of information and encourage "inferential errors and disproportionate fears of risks." 129 Consequently, the manner in which h ealth professionals communicate the negative and positive aspects of information to their patients is extremely important. If patients are to make an autonomous choice regarding a me dical intervention, they must acquire adequate level of understanding. Certai n ways of framing information, however, reduce understanding thus compromising autonomous choice. Some ways of framing information can be misleading to the extent that both health professionals and patients misinterpret the content of information. If, for instance, clinicians presented information in terms of survival or death, the choice of procedure to curtail the outcomes is markedly different. In one study, radiologists, outpatients with chronic health problems, and graduate business students made a hypothetical choice between two therapies for lung can cer, radiation therapy, and surg ery. When presenters framed information about risk in terms of probability of survival, 25% in all th ree groups chose radiation over surgery. When presenters framed the outcome of intervention in te rms of immediate death from surgical intervention, all three groups chose radiation 42%. 130 127 Beauchamp, Principles 90. 128 Beauchamp, Principles 90. 129 Beauchamp, Principles 90. 130 Beauchamp, Principles 90.
72 Problems of Nonacceptance and False Belief A problem of nonacceptance and false belief refers to a breakdown in decision making caused by persons inability to "accept information as true or untainted, even if he or she adequately comprehends the information." 131 Examples of a false belief are: (1) Patients' false beliefs that their doctor will not fill out insuranc e forms unless they agree to interventions their doctor suggested. (2) Patients who are capable of consent and are sufficiently informed, might agree to partake in nontherapeutic research because they falsely beli eve that it is therapeutic. (3) Seriously ill patients might refuse to make a decision about treatment because they falsely believe that they are not ill. Th is situation is particularly problematic because the physician might recognize that the patients hold false beliefs, inform the patient about it and show evidence of patients mistaken beliefs, yet patients mi ght still believe that information his physician truthfully disclosed, is false. 132 Other issues like inconclusive evidence and a lack of agreement about what constitutes the truth and falsity of beliefs, complicate th e problems of nonacceptance and false belief. 133 Given that the uncertainties and probabilities beset many beliefs we should judge truth claims by the available evidence. This also is problem atic because evidence is subject to various interpretations. Additionally, different standa rds of evidence may exist, and collecting of evidence has to occur within some framework that specifies what c ounts as evidence. An agreement for the criteria that define the justifiability of beliefs must exist for an "adequate basis for determining whether a given belief compro mises understanding or simply involves an essentially contestable proposition." This claim is not a skeptical denial of the possibility of knowledge. Rather, it is a warning that "the evid ence for thinking that a belief is false may be rationally contestable." 134 131 Beauchamp, Principles 91. 132 Beauchamp, Principles 91. 133 Beauchamp, Principles 91. 134 Beauchamp, Principles 91.
73 The problem of waivers In biomedical ethics, waivers refer to peopl e's voluntary relinquishing of the right to an informed consent and the release of the physic ian from the obligation to procure informed consent. By waving the right to informed consent, agents (patients) delegate decision making to others (physicians), or agents ask that others do not inform them about either their condition, or risks of interventions. In such cases, patient s decide to forgo informed decision making. 135 Some support exists for wavers in the legal system as well as in ethics, possibly because a substantial number of patients seems disinterested in the type of interven tions they might need, the risks, and the information to help them make decisions. 136 Some courts have ruled that when patients request waivers of informed consent, phys icians do not need to di sclose risks associated with medical interventions. In bi omedical ethics, some researcher s maintain that individuals can always waive their rights, including the right to informed consent. Different studies show that up to 60% of patients want to know almost nothing about particul ar interventions or about the accompanying risks. Additionally, a high percen tage of patients would consent without knowledge of risk, and only a minor percentage utilizes the info rmation supplied in making their decisions. 137 Although we have a discretionary power of exercising our rights in the context of consent, it is dangerous to allow waivers as a general practice in clinical settings because too many patients trust their physicians too much. In research and therap eutic settings, this inordinate trust "makes patients vul nerable to those who have a conf lict of interest or abbreviate or omit consent procedures for convenience, already a serious probl em in health care." 138 No likely general solution regarding the pr oblems with waivers is likely to appear because each case of waiver requires separate consideration, although a sufficient procedural response is possible. 139 For instance, we could develop rules for disallowing waivers except 135 Beauchamp, Principles 92. 136 Beauchamp, Principles 92. 137 Beauchamp, Principles 92-3. 138 Beauchamp, Principles 93. 139 Beauchamp, Principles 93.
74 when committees such as hospital ethics committ ees or institutional review committees approve them. The committees' decision to allow or disa llow waivers would be based on protection of patients best interest in each specific case. Th is procedural tactic w ould virtually eliminate problems with waivers. Still, inflexible rules w ould violate autonomy and fail to help individuals dismiss their responsibilities in institutional envi ronments. To insure protection for patients and to flexibility in reflection and decision making, close monitoring of this process is necessary. 140 Voluntariness and Forms of Influence Although some researchers (Feinberg) have an alyzed voluntariness in the scope of the presence of adequate knowledge, and the abse nce of psychological and external constraints, 141 voluntariness in the context of this paper pertai ns to individuals ac tions that are free of controlling or coercive influence of others. 142 This is a narrow view of voluntariness intended to differentiate it from a broader concept that w ould make it synonymous w ith autonomy. Certain conditions such as psychiatric disorders, debili tating disease, and drug ad diction can also reduce or void voluntariness. 143 For the purpose of this paper, howev er, the focus is on control by other individuals. It is important to mention that controlling others is necessarily an influence. All influences, however, are not controlling. 144 In a medical environment, physicians control their patients when they are threatening to abandon them if they do not ag ree to undergo certain medical procedures such as car diac catheterization. Physicians in fluence, but do not control, patients when they persuade initially reluct ant patients to undergo certain procedures. Additionally, while individuals resist some influe nces, they welcome others. In a broad sense, influence includes various intera ctions, all of which can have a profound effect on individuals. Such interactions include "act s of love, threats, education, lies, manipulative suggestions, and 140 Beauchamp, Principles 93. 141 Beauchamp, Principles 94; Joel Feinberg, Social Philosophy (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1973) 48. 142 Beauchamp, Principles 94. 143 Beauchamp, Principles 94. 144 Beauchamp, Principles 94.
75 emotional appeals." 145 The literature on informed consent me ntions three categories of influence: coercion, persuasion, and manipulation. Coercion Coercion refers to one person's intentional and successful use of credible and severe threat of harm or force to control another." 146 Coercion is incompatible with informed consent because it robs others of autonomous choice. Thr ee essential features define coercion: (1) the agent of influence must intend to influence anot her person by using a serious threat, (2) the threat must be credible, and (3) the threat has to be irresistible. 147 A common type of coercion is the threat of force that some police, courts, a nd hospitals use in acts of involuntary committal for psychiatric treatment. For the threat to be cred ible, both sides have to believe that the person making a threat has the power to carry it out, or has to successfully deceive a person being threatened into believing so. For instance, a pris on physician who tells an in mate that he must be sedated may need to have prison guards present in order to make the threat credible. Situations where no one has issued a threat, yet the person feels threatened, do not constitute coercion because coercion happens only if there is a believ able and intended threat that substitutes for a persons self-governance. Coercion renders ev en intentional and we ll-informed conduct nonautonomous. 148 Persuasion Persuasion is a form of influence that relies on appeal to reason. In other words, persuasion is the intentional and successful effort to convince others, by appealing to reason, to 145 Beauchamp, Principles 94. 146 Beauchamp, Principles 94. 147 Faden, History 339. 148 Beauchamp, Principles 94.
76 voluntarily accept as their own, the intentions, values beliefs, attitudes, or actions that another person advocates. 149 Persuasion is always an open form of interpersonal influence because persuaders openly discuss reasons for adopting their recommendations. An y choices that people make or any acts they perform as a result of persuasion are not only non-controlled but also autonomous provided that other conditions of au tonomous action such as proper disclosure and adequate understand ing, are satisfied. 150 In this discussion, persuasion is distinguishab le from influence by appeal to emotion. In the medical field it is difficult to differentiate between cognitive and emotional responses and also to decide which response is likely to o ccur. The problem arises when disclosures or techniques that might "rationally persuade" one person, overwhelm another because they might experience the level of fear or panic that short circuits reasoning ability. The primary aim is to avoid overwhelming a person with alarming in formation, especially if that person is psychologically defenseless. 151 Manipulation Manipulation refers to several types of influe nce that include all intentional and successful influence of others by non-coercively modifyi ng the actual available alternatives or by non-persuasively changing other people's perceptions of those alternatives. 152 Manipulators use one of these two means to alter other peoples choices or percepti ons of those choices. The most common form of manipulation in the medical field is informational manipulation, i.e., a purposeful handling of information intended to non-persuasively change other people's understanding of a particular situ ation, thus influencing them to act according to wishes of the agent of influence such as a physician. Examples of informational manipulation are deception that includes lying, withholding information, and misleading exaggeration meant to lead a person 149 Faden, History 261. 150 Faden, History 261. 151 Beauchamp, Principles 95. 152 Faden, History 261.
77 to believe in false facts. 153 Although informational manipulatio n does not deplete the realm of manipulation, it is incongruent with autonomous decision making and is a major problem for informed consent. 154 Some problems that affect understandi ng recur as problems of informational manipulation. One such instance is clinicians use of therapeutic privilege to withhold information to manipulate patients to consent to a medically advisabl e intervention. Also, the manner in which medical professionals present info rmation such as the tone of voice, forceful gestures, and positive (this therapy is effective most of the time) rather than negative (this therapy fails in 35% of the cases) presentation of information, might al ter patients "perception and response, and thereby affect understanding and voluntariness." 155 The threat of control by manipulation in medi cal care is easily inflatable beyond its actual importance because we normally make decisions in a context of rivaling influences such as "personal desires, familial c onstraints, legal obligations, and institutional pressures." 156 These influences are not necessarily controlling to a gr eat degree. Still, to insure that patients or research subjects make an autonomous choice, it is necessary to establish a point at which autonomous choice becomes imperiled. At the sa me time we must recognize that in many situations the line between controlling and non-controlli ng influences is not sharp. 157 In summary, the autonomy model presente d above is conceptual not normative. Faden and Beauchamp provide the most sophisticated anal ysis of informed consent to originate from new medical ethics, which considers patient au tonomy as its basis for good medical care. 158 The strengths include the definition of informed c onsent (respect for person's autonomy), which focuses on what appears to be the most important in determining whether patients have given informed consent. Another strength is the c oncern for patients' understanding of medical intervention that clinic ians recommend and its consequen ces, as well patients' knowledge of existence and the consequences of any alternat ive treatments. Faden's and Beauchamp's concern 153 Beauchamp, Principles 95. 154 Faden, History 261. 155 Beauchamp, Principles 95. 156 Beauchamp, Principles 95. 157 Beauchamp, Principles 95. 158 Brody, Power 86.
78 for patients' precise understanding of what they want is a strength. They warn of possible confusion of patients in the sense that they might think they are getting one thing but actually getting something else. Also present is a concern for undue influence from others or from internal forces such as fear, depression, addiction, or metabolic imbalances. Patients' view of the process of decision making, whether they see it as act ive participants or as just a conversation or simply a legal formality, is also a concern. The additional strength of Faden's and Beauchamp's analysis is the differentiation between full and substantial autonomy, a nd between the autonomy of the action and autonomy of the person. Associ ating informed consent with autonomous action may help identify it as only one element of the physician-patient relationship. The overall focus of this relationship is the autonomy of the pe rson, while informed consent has a more narrow focus on the individuals' autonomy of actions and decisions. 159 The objections to Faden's and Beauchamp's an alysis of informed consent are mainly to their predominantly theoretical strategy, whic h fails to provide an operational model for clinicians to follow. 160 It also leads them to ignore the complexities of power relationships in medical practice, namely the authority or th e power of physicians in physician-patient relationships. 161 I will address this point in a later ch apter. Faden and Beauchamp themselves make a general disclaimer about A History and Theory of Informed Consent claiming that their aim is not to define the pr oper role of informed consent in medical care and research. 162 They also claim that they do not supply an analysis of the desirability of participation by patients of subjects in decisionmaking, nor (that they) identify the conditions under which health care professionals and research investigat ors should obtain informed consent. 163 Finally, they claim that they discuss the nature of informed consen t, its conditions, and the ends it serves, but not whether and when informed consent obligations should be imposed. 164 Although Faden and 159 Brody, Power 86. 160 Brody, Power 87; Wear, Consent 86. 161 Brody, Power 87. 162 Faden, History vii. 163 Faden, History vii. 164 Faden, History viii.
79 Beauchamp do not offer an operational model of in formed consent, their theoretical framework presents a standard by which to evaluate any operational model. 165 In this chapter I have discussed the legal and the philosophical th eories of informed consent, with latter being based on the principl e of respect for autonomy. I have also discussed the principle of beneficence on which physicians have been historically re lying in medical care. Although both the autonomy and the legal models dominate the discussion of informed consent, they have received a jaundiced r eception in the health care field, wh ere its application is at most routine. In practice, there are many obstacles to informed consent other than those mentioned, which will be the subject of a later chapter. I wi ll first provide the historical and scientific background for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that I will analyze late r, to determine how well clinicians apply informed consent in practice. 165 Wear, Consent 89.
Chapter 4 Historical and Scientific Background of Human Hormones Liberal democracies, including that of the United States, grew out of the need to respect peoples' rights and their freedoms to promote their self-development. Many political and international documents encourage equality, life, and liberty for all, but implementing respect for them in practice has been difficult because they require change of attitudes and values. Informed consent, with the principle of respect for autonomy as its basis, also requires re-orientation of attitudes and values of those in the position of authority and those who seek their assistance. Physicians are sworn to uphold the best interest of the patients, a model that relied on the principle of beneficence alone, and are also supposed to respect patients' autonomy. The need to respect patients' rights is necessary because the quest for cures, and the search for new drugs can lead to the wrong kind of medical enthusiasm, i.e., the kind that is sometimes misguided and that may cause harm to those whom they are supposedfirst and foremost to treat. Moreover, other interests can be harmful rather than therapeutic. Drug makers tirelessly promote their products to both physicians and patients, which sometimes creates an artificial need for drugs to treat conditions that often do not, or might not, require medical intervention, e.g., menopause. America's fascination with youth and beauty in the last part of the 20 th century found a partner in the field of medicine. To help women maintain youthful appearances by preventing normal effects of aging, medicine offered hormones. Moreover, in the 1960s the medical profession declared menopause, a natural event in every woman's life, a disease, and hormone prescription and use became a panacea for all disturbances connected with menopause. Except for a short period in the 1970s, when numerous studies confirmed that estrogen intake caused an up to fourfold increase in development of uterine cancer, clinicians have been prescribing hormone replacement therapies (HRT) to menopausal women to prevent a variety of 80
81 health conditions such as heart disease, osteopor osis, depression, Alzheimer's, hot flashes, and thinning of vaginal tissue. 1 Since its introduction in 1949 the dr ug of choice for those conditions has been Premarin (a synthetic form of hormone estrogen). Clinicians have been prescribing Premarin routinely in a one-size-fits-all manne rthe same dose for every woman, regardless of her size or medical history. 2 To prevent uterine cancers, clinic ians have also been prescribing Provera (a synthetic form of hormone pr ogesterone) for 10-12 days of every month. 3 In addition to the risk of uterine cancer, hormone replacement therapy confronted another serious problem in the middle of 1990s. 4 Multiple studies, including the Nurses' Health Study, showed an indisputable link be tween estrogen a nd breast cancer. 5 This connection is plausible because estrogen is well known to stimulate the growth of estrogen sensitive tissue, like that in the breast and uterus. 6 The cardiovascular benefits, howev er, appeared so convincing that clinicians persuaded many women to set aside th eir fear of breast can cer and continue using Premarin. 7 Doubts about hormone replacement, however, resurfaced when at the end of the year 2000 several large pr ospective studies 8 disputed its heart protection benefits. The large Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS) of women who already had a heart disease, hormone replacement utilizing Premarin and Provera, not only did not decrease their risk for subsequent heart attack, it actually increased that risk significantly in the first year of use, after which the risk leveled off. 9 Additionally, initial results from the Women's Health Initiative, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of over 100,000 of women on Premarin (and often Provera), showed that replacement hormones did not decrease the statistical risk of heart attack 1 Christiane Northrup, The Wisdom of Menopause (New York: Bantam Books, 2001) 137. 2 Northrup, Wisdom 137. 3 Northrup, Wisdom 137. 4 Susan Love, Dr. Susan Love's Hormone Book (New York: Random House, 1997) 119. 5 Love, Book 119; Northrup, Wisdom 137. 6 Northrup, Wisdom 137. 7 Northrup, Wisdom 137. 8 A prospective study is a cohort or follow up type of observational study, in which researchers recruit a group of subjects and follow them forward over a period of years. Love, Book 64. In contrast, a retrospective cohort study focuses on the medical histories of a particular number of people. Some of those may have a specific health conditions while others may not. From this information, researchers try to determine how many people had a certain risk factor. For instance, researchers may look at women with Alzheimer's disease and determine how many of them took estrogen at menopause. Love, Book 64.
82 or other heart problems in healthy women. Other c linical trials also failed to confirm hormonesheart-benefit link. While many experts still believe that estrogen has a ca rdiovascular benefit, clinicians cannot assume that this is true for everyone. 10 Medicine's focus on cardiovascular benefit of estrogen is important because Coronary heart disease is the single leading cause of death in women and a significant cause of disa bility. Menopause adversely affects several risk factors for coronary heart disease (such as good and bad cholesterol), suggesting that hormones influence the risk of coronary he art disease in postmenopausal women. 11 A comprehensive new report casts more doubt on longstanding claims that hormone replacement can prevent heart disease or other ailments such as Alzheimer's, severe depression, urinary incontinence, and osteoporosis. 12 The report claims that while hormone therapy is the best way to relieve menopausal symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes, scientific evidence to support its use for other problems is lacking. 13 The International Position Paper on Womens Health and Menopause a joint venture of the National In stitutes of Health and the private Giovanni Lorenzini Medical Science Foundation of Italy, 14 reviews existing studies and has engaged twenty-eight doctors and scientists fr om the United States, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia. The significance of the report is in its authors' decision to emphasize evidencebased medicine, i.e., treatments tested in ra ndomized controlled trials that assign patients on random basis either a placebo or a treatment. Su ch treatments represen t the gold standard in medical research. This paper describes Women's health and menopause (as) a rapidly expanding field of medical practice and scien tific investigation. It is a fiel d of great social importance and impact, nationally and globally in devel oped as well as developing countries. 15 Furthermore, the stated purpose of this international and multidisciplinary paper is to enhance the composite 9 Northrup, Wisdom 137. 10 Northrup, Wisdom 137; Lori Mosca, "The Role of Hormon e Replacement Therapy in the Prevention of Postmenopausal Heart Disease," Archives of Internal Medicine 160.15 (Aug. 14/28, 2000): 2263-72. 11 Mosca, "Role" 2263. 12 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI ) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best Clinical Practices," International Position Paper on Women's Health and Menopause: A Comprehensive Approach NIH Office of Research on Women's Health and Giovann i Lorenzini Medical Science Foundation (Washington: National Heart, Lung, and Bloo d Institute, June 2002), 1-34. 13 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 1-34. 14 All pertinent information is from an advanced copy of chapter13 of this paper, titled Best Clinical Practices.
83 health of menopausal and postmenopausal women on a global basis, and to make recommendations regarding needs for future research. 16 The International Position Paper on Womens Health and Menopause might, therefore, provide more reliable guidelines that could stop routine prescription of hormone therapy whic h places women at great health risks without the necessary scientific evidence of its benef its. Additional reports from the Women's Health Initiative, such as the one published in JAMA on July 17, 2002, might dramatically change the current routine prescription of HR T for prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease. Some clinicians like Deborah Grady, a prof essor of epidemiology and medicine at the University of California of San Francisco, have already changed their approach to prescribing hormonal therapy to all postmenopausal women as a preventive measure except those at high risk of breast cancer. 17 They prescribe hormonal therapy for symptoms for which it is the best treatment. In a dramatic reversal, Grady, w ho was a lead author of the 1992 guidelines on hormone replacement for the American College of Physicians and who thought at the time that clinicians should prescribe preventive hormone therapy to most menopausal women, except those at high risk for breast cancer, now spends much time try ing to figure out how to help women taper off estrogen. 18 Although, many clinically significant questi ons regarding menopause are still to be answered, women who seek advice about menopause now have more information and also have more options for a healthy life in their postme nopausal years. Additiona lly, New trial results and new medications may further change recommendations for the assessment and management of the postmenopausal woman. 19 15 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 4. 16 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 4. 17 Grady was a lead author of the 19 92 guidelines on hormone replacem ent for the American College of Physicians. At the time Grady thought that clinicians should prescribe preventive hormone therapy to most menopausal women, except those at high risk for breast cancer and included that view into the guidelines. Denise Grady, "Scientists Question Hormone Therapies for Menopause Ills," The New York Times [New York] Apr. 18, 2002, Health. 18 Grady, "Scientists." 19 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 7.
84 Definition and Functions of Hormones Hormones are chemical messengers. More sp ecifically, hormones are our bodys liquid communication system: they circulate throughout the body, either in the cardiovascular or in the lymphatic system, targeting specific cells with certain messages. They carry chemical messages from more than a dozen endocrine glands (gla nds that secrete hormone s directly into the bloodstream or lymphatic system) and tissues to cells throughout the bod y where they activate their regulatory effect. 20 We have much to learn about the complex functioning of the endocrine system, including the functioning of hormones because we have onl y a general understanding of its many actions. Continuing research ought to provide more detailed knowledge of all the individual processes. 21 There are, however, some things we do know about hormones. For instance, we know of 50 different hormones in the human body. We also know that even small amounts of hormones such as estrogen, adrenalin, or insulin, can have power ful effects on organisms. Hormones regulate an assortment of physiological activities, among them metabolism, growth, reproduction, and homeostasis (maintenance of constant internal environment such as body temperature and electrolyte balance). Although th ey vary in their structure, action, and response, hormones control a mixture of biological processes including heart rate, muscle growth, hunger, and the menstrual cycle. 22 Major endocrine glands include the pitu itary gland (the so called master gland, the size of a pea, located at the ba se of the brain just above the roof of the mouth in line with the bridge of the nose) the thyroid gland, the parathyroid gland (in th e neck), the adrenal glands, the pancreas (in the abdomen), and the sex organs or gonads. 23 Given their structure hormones fall into two main groups: amino acids and steroids. Most nonsteroidal hormones consist of chains of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), either short chains (polypeptides) or long chains (protein s). The hormones of the adrenal medulla, 20 "Hormone Chemistry," Britannica CD. Version 97. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., (1997). 21 John O.E. Clark, "The Endocrine System," The Human Body ed. John O.E. Clark (New York: Arch Cape Press, 1989) 190. 22 "Types of Hormones," Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, http://www.som.tulane.edu/ecme/eehome/basics /endosys/hormones.html (July 20, 2001).
85 however, are made of amino acid derivatives ca lled amines. The thyroid hormones are composed of a single amino acid combined with atoms of iodine. Steroid hormones, on the other hand are lipid compounds made from cholesterol. 24 Once hormones locate a particular target ce ll, they bind to it with specific protein receptors inside the cell (steroid hormones and the hormones of the thyroid) or on its coating (polypeptide, protein, and amine hormones) in or der to change the cell's activities. The protein receptors read the hormone's message(s) and execu te the instructions either by shaping gene operation (by instructing them to make new proteins) or by alteri ng the cells existing proteins. These activities produce an assortment of quick reactions and long-term effects. 25 Too much or too little of any hormone leads to a physiological disruption. For instance, high estrogen levels adversely affect cell membranes, which leads to the inflow of water and sodium into cells. This causes intracellular water retention and a loss of potassium and magnesium and often results in high blood pressure in women. 26 Excessive levels of sodium or of any other mineral have an adverse, lowering effect on all other minerals in the case of high estrogen in particular, potassium and magnesium. 27 Hormones have different targets. Although some hormones can bond with matching receptors in a variety of cells, others aim at only one or a fe w tissues. Estrogen can regulate functions by bonding to particular receptors in breast, uterine, a nd bone cells. The same cells (in breast, uterine, and bone) also act as target cells (receptors) for various other regulatory molecules or hormones. For instance, the same breast, uterine, and bone cells that receive estrogen, also contain receptors for progesterone, testosterone glucocorticoid (an adrenal hormone), vitamin D, and vitamin A. 28 Once hormones have initiated the necessary action, the body eliminates them from the system. The target tissues destroy the leftover hormones or the liver breaks them down into 23 Clark, "Endocrine" 190. 24 "Chemistry." 25 "Chemistry." 26 John Lee, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause (New York: Warner Books, 1996) 254. 27 James F. Balch and Phyllis A. Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Garden City Park: Avery, 1997) 22. 28 "Types of Hormones."
86 water-soluble compounds. The bodys excretory sy stem then disposes the remaining watersoluble compounds. 29 Amino Acids Major endocrine glands that produce ami no acid-based hormones are the anterior and posterior pituitary glands, thyroid gland, para thyroid gland, adrenal medulla gland, and the pancreas. The anterior pituitary gland produces six different hormones: thyrotrophin (THS), the adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) hormone, the follicle -stimulating hormone (FSH), the luteinizing hormone (LH), the lactogenic hormone (LTH) or prolactin, and the growth hormone (GH) or somatotropin. The thyrotrophin (THS) stimulates the thyroid gland and the adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) hormone stimulates the adrenal cort ex. The two gonadotropic hormones, the folliclestimulating hormone (FSH), the luteinizing hor mone (LH) stimulate the gonads: the folliclestimulating hormone (FSH) regulates egg and sper m functions and the lute inizing hormone (LH) regulate sex hormones production. Th e lactogenic hormone (LTH) or prolactin is involved in milk production and the growth hormone (GH) or somatotropin is involved in many functions regarding growth. The growth hormone and pr olactin work directly on the body tissues. The other four hormones control the actions of other endocrine glands. The posterior pituitary acts as a storage region for two hormo nes that the hypothalamu s manufactures: (1) the antidiuretic hormone (ADH or vas opressin) acts on the kidneys to regulate proper water balance in the body and (2) oxytocin regulates uterine co ntraction. The hypothalamus is an organ that serves as an essential link between the brain, the nervous system and the endocrine system. It has two functions: (1) it produces the hormones that the posterior pituitary releases, and (2) it controls the anterior pituitary gland by releasing hormones. The thyroid produces thyroxin, which increases the body's metabolic rate (cellular respiration). It also produces calcitonin which regulates the plasma level of calcium. The pa rathyroid produces parathormone (PTH), which regulates the plasma level of calcium and phos phorus. The adrenal medulla produces adrenalin 29 Clark, "Endocrine" 191.
87 (norepinephrine), a hormone invol ved in the fight-or-flight res ponses to stress. The pancreas produces insulin (lowers blood sugar) and glucagon (raises blood sugar). 30 Steroid Hormones The major glands involved in the production of steroid hormones ar e the adrenal cortex, the ovaries, and the testes. The adrenal cort ex produces glycocorticoids (cortisol), mineralocorticoids (aldosterone) and sex hormone s. Glycocorticoids regu late the production of glucose from nonglucose substances. Mineraloco rticoids regulate s odium retention and potassium excretion by the kidneys. Sex hormones regulate the development of sex characteristics. The ovaries produce various sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. For instance, the follicles (sacs that encase eggs) produce estrogens, which regulate the development of female characteristics durin g puberty (breast development, pigmentation of the nipples and genitals, and underarm and pubic hair growth). 31 Estrogen is also responsible for the cyclic growth of the endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus), which takes place early in the menstrual cycle. The corpus luteum (tissue that grows inside the follicle once the egg is released) produces progesterone, which also regulates growth of the e ndometrium to prepare it for implantation of a fertilized egg and provides support during pregnancy. Additionally, the ovaries produce progesterone in the later half of the cycle and in large quantities during pregnancy. The third sex hormone that ovaries produce, testoster one, is the source of energy and sexual drive in women as in men. Finally, the testes produce androgens (testosterone and its derivatives) that regulate the functioning of the male sex organs and the development of secondary male characteristics (hair growth). 32 Both women and men produce estrogen, pr ogesterone, and testosterone, but the end results of the actions of those hormones are qu ite distinct in the two genders. Women and men 30 Sylvia S. Mader, Inquiry Into Life Fourth Edition (Dubuque: Wm. C. Brown, 1985) 370-87. 31 Estrogen is a name most often used in medical literatu re for three major estrogens--estradiol, estrone, and estriolwith estradiol being the predominant one. 32 Mader, Inquiry 370-87.
88 produce different amounts of each hormone. Es trogen and progesterone are predominant in females, and testosterone is predominant in males. 33 If our bodies fail to produ ce the required hormonal levels we may experience medical conditions requiring therapy. For instance, physic ians administer cort icosteroids and their synthetic parallels, such as prednisone and dexamethasone, to control rheumatism and other inflammatory ailments. Physicians sometimes admini ster anabolic steroids (defined as any of a class of steroid hormones, esp. testosterone that promote growth of muscle tissue) 34 to postoperative and geriatric patients to encour age muscle development and tissue regrowth. Athletes have used anabolic ster oids in the form of synthetic te stosterone to speed up muscular development and to increase strength. Anabolic steroids, however, can have harmful effects, especially in young people who have not fully developed physically. Continuous and long term use of anabolic steroids may result in heart di sease, immune deficiencies, liver damage, sexual and reproductive disorders, stun ted growth in teenagers and young adults, and aggressive, violent behavior. 35 Similarly, physicians prescribe hormone therapy to menopausal women to ease discomfort and prevent serious conditions associated with menopause. Since the 1960s, the medical profession adopted a view that menopa use is a hormone or estrogen deficiency disease. Declaring menopause a disease open ed doors to the medicalization of an event that every woman experiences, which begets the following question. If menopa use is an event that every woman experiences, why is it a disease? As we wi ll see later, in the last decade, some medical professionals, organizations, and women activists have promoted a new de finition of menopause. Menopause and Hormone Repl acement Therapy (HRT) Some current writings on menopause define it as a change in a womans life; however, this does not say much about what kind of cha nge menopause involves. The term change refers 33 Clark, "Endocrine" 190. 34 "Steroid," Britannica CD 99 Multimedia Edition 1994-1999., Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., (1999). 35 "Steroid."
89 to only a physical change somehow leading to me ntal, physical, and sexual decline, while on the contrary, decline does not happen. 36 A better way to define menopause is that it is a complex event in a womans life, one that the effects of changing hormone levels cannot easily explain. 37 This definition is viable because it reflects the cu rrent state of understanding of an important and unique event in each womans life. There are two important reasons for the plausibility of this new definition. First, menopause is not a disease but a normal event. 38 It is a biological occurrence, involving the perman ent discontinuation of the mens trual cycle. This further involves a variation and declin e of ovarian hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and androgen. This decrease in the ovarian production of hormones (specifically estrogen) may result in short-term, unpleasant effects such as hot fl ashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and irregular menstrual cycles that negatively affect the quality of life during perimenopause (the transition time that starts immediately before the natural menopause). For many years clinicians thought that hormone (especially estrogen) decline also increased the risk of osteoporosis and coronary heart disease in the postmenopausal years. 39 The second reason for the plausibility of th e new definition is that menopause is more than a biological, i.e., physical event. It is also a psychos ocial passage. All women go through menopause but their subjective experiences differ. So me feel a sense of freedom at the prospect of the end of fertility and con cerns about contraception and mens trual cycles. It is a link to a phase of life when they feel better about themselves in a sense of being more confident, empowered, involved, and energize d then in their younger years. 40 For others, menopause may contribute to serious health pr oblems, aggravated by a combina tion of changing hormone levels, the effects of aging, and the stresses associated w ith midlife. In general, however, menopause is 36 Reproduction and Reproduc tive Systems: Menopause. Britannica CD 99 Multimedia Edition 19941999. Encyclopedia Brita nnica, Inc. 1999. 37 North American Menopause Society, Menopause Guidebook (Cleveland: North American Menopause Society, 2001) inside cover, 3; National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 4. 38 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 4; North American Menopause Society, Menopause Guidebook 3. 39 North American Menopause Society, "Basic F acts About Menopause," North American Menopause Society, www.menopause.org (June 24, 2001). 40 North American Menopause Society, "Basic."
90 an opportunity to improve the quality of life. 41 Acknowledging these findings, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and the International Position Paper on Womens Health and Menopause guidelines encourage clinicians to us e an individualized approach to the health problems associated with menopause. 42 No treatment fits every woman and each choice has a benefit/risk feature ch aracteristic to each woman. 43 In other words, clinicians' recommendations need to be specific to each woman and her background because There are country-specific and cultural va riations in menopausal sympto ms, the frequency of different post-menopausal diseases, clinical practice, health care resources, and affordable interventions. 44 The transition time that leads to natu ral menopause is perimenopause. It starts immediately before natural menopause and can la st six or more years ending one year after menopause. The usual signs of perimenopause ar e hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irregular menstrual periods, difficulty sleeping, and mood swings. The cause for those changes is a shift in ovarian production of hormones (estrogen, progest erone, and testosterone) and the hormones that regulate them. 45 The anterior pituitary gland produces the follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and the luteinizing hormone (LH), both of whic h regulate ovarian functions, including sex hormone production. We may understand perimenopause better if we think of it as puberty in reverse. 46 Barring abnormalities, every woman is born with two ovaries. They contain all the eggs she will have throughout her lifetime. Eggs remain idle until the start of the mens trual cycle. With the onset of puberty, the hormone levels start to fluctuate wildly a nd eventually settle into an 41 North American Menopause Society, "Basic."; Na tional Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 6. 42 NAMS describes itself as North Americas leading nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting understanding of menopause, and thereby improving the health of women as they approach menopause and beyond. Its membership is multidisciplinary, consisting of 000 leaders in the field, including clinical and basic science experts from medicine, nursing, sociology, psychology, nutrition, anthropology, epidemiology, and education, which allows NAMS to be uniquely qualifie d to provide accurate and u nbiased information. Some recognize NAMS as the premier source of information on all facets of menopaus e to both healthcare providers and the public. 43 North American Menopause Society, "Basic."; Na tional Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 6. 44 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 6. 45 North American Menopause Society, Menopause Guidebook 3.
91 equilibrium once a woman reaches biological matu rity. Weight gain, bloating, and mood swings are common among adolescent girls, and physicians assume that high estrogen is the cause. When perimenopausal women experience the same symptoms in addition to hot flashes (not characteristic of puberty), clinicians assume it is because estrogen levels are too low. Big hormonal shifts are common to both stages of life, puberty, and perimenopause. Symptoms of those hormonal shifts eventually disappear when the body reaches a new balance point, either maturity after puberty, or natural menopause after perimenopause. 47 Natural menopause describes a spontaneous ev ent, permanent cessation of the menstrual cycle without any medical intervention. It is onl y one day in a womans life. The majority of women in the Western world go through natural menopaus e between the ages of 40 and 58, with the average age being 51. Some women undergo natural menopause in their thirties and some in their sixties. Genetics and ciga rette smoking are the only proven factors that affect age at menopause. Women usually experience menopause at about the same age as their mothers and sisters. Smokers, including former smokers, may reach it a year or two earlier than nonsmokers. 48 Menopause can also be induced or premature. Induced menopause is an instantaneous event resulting from surgical removal of both ov aries. This is surgical menopause. It stops menstrual bleeding and makes a woman infertile. Induced menopause can also happen as a result of ovarian damage from other medical treatme nts such as pelvic radiation and cancer chemotherapy. A hysterectomy without removal of the ovaries does not induce menopause because ovaries continue to produce hormones; the menstrual bleeding stops and natural menopause will occur because the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. 49 There are important differences between natural and induced menopause. First, premenopausal women who go through induced menopause (caused by surgical removal of ovaries and thus loss of hormones) do not experi ence perimenopause but rather face an abrupt loss of ovarian hormones, including estr ogen. Consequently, their menopause-related 46 Love, Book 4. 47 Love, Book 4. 48 North American Menopause Society, Menopause Guidebook 3. 49 North American Menopause Society, Menopause Guidebook 3-4.
92 disturbances, such as hot flashes, are more inte nse. They may also be at the greater risk of osteoporosis and, possibly, heart disease because they live more years without the protective effects of estrogen. Another important differenc e is that the emotional effect of induced menopause may be greater. Women often have to st ruggle with the condition or disease that led to the medical intervention (e.g., chemotherapy or pelv ic radiation) and also with the side effects of treatment. For instance, pelvic radiation resu lts in hot flashes and acute vaginal dryness and irritation. Finally, women who undergo induced menopa use have a greater need for treatment to control intense symptoms and, potentially, to decr ease the risk of some disease later in life; however, for younger women who use hormones long-te rm, risk reduction benefits may not be desirable. Knowledge in this area is limited because all the studies focused on postmenopausal women. Also, not much is known about the safety of using hormones for many years, and often hormones are not an option because medical cond itions may preclude them and women and their doctors may have to choose alternative treatments. 50 Premature menopause can be natural or induc ed, and women reach it before the age of forty. Genetic inheritance, autoimmune pro cesses, or medical interventions such as chemotherapy or pelvic radiation can cause premature menopause. Women who undergo premature menopause have an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart di sease for the remainder of their lives. Premature menopa use signifies the end of normal childbearing and, consequently, can be a cause of psychological distress. Grieving the loss of fertility and subsequent loss of the children they could have had, is common among many younger women. Also, some women associate fecundity with their idea of sexual de sirability and femininity. Consequently, the psychological effect of premature menopause is as significant as th e physical effect and physicians need to treat both. 51 Menopause is, therefore, a complex event that requires careful evaluation for each individual woman who needs more than hormone prescription, yet that is not what was happening in medical practice until now. Although organizations such as NAMS, encouraged physicians to use an individualized approach when designing hormone treatments for women, 50 North American Menopause Society, Menopause Guidebook 4. 51 North American Menopause Society, Menopause Guidebook 4.
93 some clinicians claim that millions of women are currently on hormonal drug therapy to prevent diseases and conditions that they may or may not contract. By taking those drugs they might be exposing themselves to the risk of such seri ous diseases as breast and endometrial cancer. 52 How did hormonal therapy gain prominence as the treatment for menopausal problems despite the obvious ambivalence women have about it? Hormone therapy has been called a product in search of a market. Most research on menopause is designed to demonstrat e the desirability of medicalized interventions. Although the use of horm ones to help women cope with common signs of menopause, such as hot fl ashes, has been known since 1937, hormone treatment was popularized for a mass market in the 1960's. It was promoted not simply as a palliative for the discomfort s of menopause but also as a panacea for psychological problems supposedly relate d to the change of life. Such claims were unproven but were treated as common knowledge. These assertions promoted a stereotyped view of postmenopausal older women as asexual, neurotic and unattractive. As a resu lt, exogenous estrogen was approved for prescription use without adequate testing and soon became one of the five top-selling prescription drugs. 53 These claims, (1) that most research on menopause is designed to show the need for medicalized interventions; ( 2) that hormone treatment was promoted/approved for prescription as a cure all for psychological problems as well as for phys ical discomforts of menopause without proper testing; and (3) that those actions lead to a stereotypical view of postmenopausal women as neurotic, asexual and unattractive, are plau sible if we look at other evidence. In his immensely successful book, Feminine Forever (1966), Robert Wilson declared that menopause is a serious, painful, and often crippling disease. 54 He saw the elimination of menopause as perhaps the most technical advance by which wo men may equip themselves for 52 Love, Book xvi. 53 Paula B. Doress-Worters in a foreword of Sandra Coneys book, The Menopause Industry: How the Medical Establishment Exploits Women 54 Robert A. Wilson, Feminine Forever (New York: M. Evans and Company, 1966) 31.
94 an enduringly feminine role in modern life. 55 Wilsons perception was that women would not feel fully feminine throughout their life span without hormone therapy to keep them looking youthful and vibrant. He further contended that large segments of the medical profession failed to understand that need. He suggested that medical doctors needed to trea t this disease with hormones to preserve womens femininity and vitality. 56 The effect of Wilsons book was such that it set off a mania fo r long-term estrogen therapy for every woman. 57 Although studies in the1960s faile d to document the proclaimed benefits and the safety of hormones, the estrog en obsession did not stop. Estrogen appeared to be the fountain of youth, promising to slow ravage s of time, and both women and their doctors embraced it enthusiastically. 58 Wilsons enthusiasm for keeping women looking young and feminine, by having them use estrogen, blinded him to its considerable risks. To gain its full benefits, women were supposed to take estrogen not only at menopause but for years or decades afterward to prevent hear t disease and osteoporosis. 59 Observational studie s, however, showed that a prolonged use of this drug leads to seri ous side effects and, as we have already seen, increased risks of malignant illnesses. 60 Wilsons book had a far-reaching impact. Th irty-five years after the publication of Feminine Forever physicians routinely prescribe hormones to premenopausal and postmenopausal women. The prescription of synthe tic hormone regimens such as estrogen alone, or a combination of estrogen and either progest in or micronized natural progesterone (which some call progestogen), 61 was a routine practice because medical professionals assumed that those treatments serve as safe, necessary, a nd effective methods of preventing or managing health problems associated with menopause. Not surprisingly, until recently there was a near-consensus regarding estrogen therapy for menopausal and postmenopausal women. Physicians had two words for th ese women: take it. 55 Wilson, Feminine Forever 30. 56 Wilson, Feminine Forever 25. 57 Love, Book 133. 58 Love, Book 133. 59 Northrup, Wisdom 154. 60 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 20. 61 Progestogen is a term that some writers use for a co mbination of natural progesterone and its synthetic form, progestin.
95 Recent studies, however, suggest a more intri cate connection between health, sickness, and hormones. 62 Some specialists argued that we simply do not know enough about the benefits and risks of hormone replacement ther apy (HRT) to prescribe it so widely. For instance, there were more than forty studies in medical literature re garding HRT and its effects on the cardiovascular system, 63 the most noteworthy being the Nurses Health Study The preponderance of evidence indicated a 50% reduction in hear t disease for women who took HR T compared to those who had not. The problem with these studies is that they have been limited, even though hundreds of women participated in them, because they have all been observational studies. As such they cannot resolve questions about th e risks and benefits of HRT. 64 This happens because researchers can only ask questions about women's habits. They cannot interfere with what they normally do. 65 Another problem with these studies is th at they focused on white middle-class women residing in the United States and Western Euro pe. Consequently, their results may not be applicable to other women. 66 The most that observational stud ies can do was provide researchers with clues. The randomized, placeb o-controlled, double-blind clinical trials provide the proof. 67 Results from recent clinical trials focusi ng on HRT differ from those that observational studies produced. Additional results from large clinical trials to be released in five years may further change the medical establishment's thinking about the optimal management for the menopausal woman. 68 I will discuss the studies regarding HR T prescriptions in the next section. But first let us take a closer look at the t ypes of hormone treatments doctors prescribe. The types of hormones physicians prescrib ed to correct certain bodily functions are usually synthetic Some physicians promote natural hormones claiming that they have lesser side effects, if any at all. Both hormones are made in the laboratory but the determining factor for 62 Sasha Nemecek, "Hold the Hormones?" Scientific American 277.3 (September 1997): 38-41. 63 National Institutes of Health, "Hormone Replacem ent Therapy: What's a Wo man to Do?" Fall 1997, http://www.nih.gov/new/nf/womenshealth/5.html (June 29, 2001). 64 National Institutes of Health, "Therapy" 1. 65 Love, Book 65. 66 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 5. 67 National Institutes of Health, "Therapy" 5; Nati onal Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 5. 68 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 5.
96 classifying hormones as natural or synt hetic is their molecular structure. Natural hormones are chemically identical or bioidentical to the hormone molecules our bodies produce. 69 The molecular structure distinction is important because some people could misuse the term natural to claim that something is natural when it is not. For instance, the makers of Premarin could claim that their product is natural since its co mposition is 48% estrone, an estrogen hormone that is natural to humans; however, 52% of it consists of several hors e estrogens that are foreign to humans. 70 In other words, they are not bioidentical with human hormones although they are natural horses hormones, and come from a natural product (from estrogens extracted from urine of pregnant mares). Synthetic hormones, on the other hand, have a mol ecular structure that is similar to, but not identical to the hormones our bodies produce. This can mean th at they act differently in the human body and produce considerably dissimilar e ffects from the effect of our bodies own hormones. A better name for synthetic hormones may be similar or not bioidentical because they are not native to human metabolism and are generally much more powerful and more toxic than natural hormones. 71 Synthetic or similar estrogens, for example, can cause metabolic changes in the liver, which can lead to an in creased number of such side effects as fluid retention, high blood pressure, and blood clots. Furthermore, because our bodies natural enzymes cannot easily break down synthetic horm ones, they tend to a ccumulate in the body. 72 If this is the case, the pertinent question is, why produce synthetic forms of drugs if bioidentical versions cause less harm and might offer the sa me benefits of their more toxic synthetic counterparts? The answer is economics. Bioidentical hormones are not patentable so there is no motive for drug companies to conduct expensive research and development n eeded to produce new drugs containing them. Drug companies change the molecula r structure of a hormone so that they can patent it. This new hormone has the effect of the natural hormone; however, any change to the three-dimensional structure of the hormone changes its effects on the cell in the way we cannot completely 69 Balch, Prescription 385; Northrup, Wisdom 138. 70 "Natural Vs Synthetic Hormones," http://www.wor ldworks.net/health/semantic.html (Feb. 8, 1998). 71 Northrup, Wisdom 139. 72 Balch, Prescription 385.
97 understand. 73 Drug manufacturers can also patent unique delivery systems and have utilized such systems in patches such as Climara, Estraderm, and Vivelle. They contain bioidentical estradiol, the most potent form of estrogen, and are profitable for its manufacturers. 74 For the purposes of this paper I will use word natural or bioidentical to mean hormones that have the same molecular structure as those that our bodies produce. I will use word synthetic to mean hormones that have a molecular structure that is similar to our own hormones. Empirical Basis for Prescribing HRT A great number of studies showing new and unexpected benefits of estrogen in the 1960s stimulated medical exuberance for HRT treatme nt. In the 1970s a dramatic increase in endometrial cancer, cancer of the li ning of the uterus, related to es trogen treatment lessened that enthusiasm until researches discovered that addi ng progestin to the estrogen mix protected the uterus from cancer. From then on routine pr escription of HRT took hold. Not all women, however, shared their physicia ns excitement about HRT. More than half of the women who do fill their HRT prescriptions quit taking the drugs within a year. 75 Other data show that by the end of one year, only about half of the women who received the prescription for horm one therapy use hormones and that they do not like to use them for long periods. 76 Most women who begin HRT therapy discontinue it by the end of the first or second year. 77 Among the first time users of hormone therapy, 20% stopped using it within nine months; 10% have used it intermittently (wheneve r they remembered), and 20-30% never filled their prescription because they were not comple tely convinced of its benefits or safety. 78 73 Northrup, Wisdom 141. 74 Northrup, Wisdom 141. 75 North American Menopause Society, "Achieving Long-Term Continuance of Menopausal ERT/HRT: Consensus Opinion of The North American Menopause Society," Menopause 5.2 (1998): 69-76. 76 Veronica Ravinkar, "Compliance with Hormone Therapy," American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 156 (1987): 1332-34. 77 North American Menopause So ciety, "Continuance" 69-76. 78 Sandra Coney, The Menopause Industry (Alameda: Hunter House, 1994) 249.
98 Additional drug data showed that 100,000 women in the United States stop using HRT every month. 79 Some claim that only 30% of the women who receive prescriptions from their physicians for HRT actually filled them. 80 The main reasons for discontinuance included negative side effects such as weight gain, unscheduled uterin e bleeding, mood changes, breast tenderness and bloating. Other reas ons were lack of knowledge a bout why they were taking HRT and misinformation about its effects. 81 Finally, clinicians' failure to listen and discuss women's concerns may explain why so many wome n did not fill their HRT prescriptions. 82 Not surprisingly, much of the medical literature was about the need to develop clearer guidelines about who should be taking estrogen and for how long. To fulfill this need the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recruited more than 164,500 women of diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds to participat e in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a $628 million, 15-year project that is one of the mo st definitive, far-reaching clinical trials of women's health ever undertaken in the United States. 83 The NIH established the WHI in 1991 and plan to complete it in 2005. The study explor es how diet, hormone therapy, and calcium and vitamin D might prevent heart disease, breas t and colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis. These chronic diseases are the major causes of death, disability, and frailty in older women. 84 The general goal of WHI is to identify ways to reduce coronary heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis among menopausal wome n through prevention/intervention strategies and risk factor identification. 85 Many risk factors, defined as ha bits or characteristics of some people that makes them more likely to develop a disease, are controllable. The goal of the HRT component of WHI is to st udy cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis among postmenopausal women by conducting nationwide ra ndomized clinical trials compare hormonal therapy with a placebo. NIH designe d this study is to provide wo men and their physicians with greatly needed additional evaluati on of risks, as well as benefits of hormone therapy. The WHI 79 North American Menopause So ciety, "Continuance" 69-76. 80 Love, Book xvi. 81 For instance, high expectations that treatment will im mediately reduce hot flashes, sleep disturbances or relieve mental distress North American Menopause Society, "Continuance" 69-76. 82 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 8. 83 National Institutes of Health, "Therapy." 84 National Institutes of Health, "Therapy." 85 National Institutes of Health, "Therapy."
99 study design will avoid major criti cism of the Nurses Health Study, namely that it only observed the habits of the select segment of the population, namely nur ses, who are ordi narily healthier than the general population. 86 The difference between these studies is that the WHI is a clinical trial type of study, a prospective randomized double-blind controlled study. It is the least flawed and consequently the most reliable. 87 The Nurses Health Study in Boston, Massachu ssets, is a cohort or follow-up type of observational study where researchers simply obser ve, without interfering, what people normally do. This study began in 1976 and researcher s have carefully followed the group of 121,700 nurses. The nurses fill out questioners every tw o years. The researchers periodically analyze various diseases or risk factor s in this group. Given th at the number of women in this group is very large, data that researchers obtain are powerful. The study, however, has limitations. The researchers cannot control women s behavior in the sense that they cannot decide who takes hormones or who has a mammogram. They can only ask women questions about their study related health activities. Cons equently, the study might include some women at risk for breast cancer who are not taking hormone s or who have more frequent mammograms. These variables skew the results. 88 Until more long-term studies are comple ted such as the WHI study, the consensus regarding the use of HRT regimen, according to the NIH, has been the following: the short-term use of HRT to treat symptoms of menopause for the length of thei r duration, usually from several months to two years, benefits the majority of women with minimal or no risk. The long-term use of HRT has a questionable benefit, and women need to consider th eir risks for osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease before starting HRT regimens. Women ha ve to evaluate the potential benefits for those diseases against the potential risk of breast, endometri al and ovarian cancer. Additionally, according to NIH, the contraindi cations for estrogen hormonal therapies are unexplained vaginal bleeding, chro nically impaired liver functions, active liver disease, and blood clotting. 89 86 Nemecek, "Hold the Hormones?" 38-41. 87 Love, Book 67. 88 Love, Book 65. 89 National Institutes of Health, "Therapy" 5.
100 Women who were concerned about the risks of estrogen coul d choose from the variety of nonhormonal drugs to fight osteoporosis and heart disease. Clinicians lik e JoAnn E. Manson, one of the researches on the Nurses Health Study an d main investigator of the WHI at Harvard, suggested that women who were concerned a bout heart disease could prevent it by paying attention to diet, exercising, not smoking, and controlling blood pressure. Francine Grodstein, 90 one of the investigators in th e Nurses Health Study, agreed. She suggested that lifestyle changes only have benefits for preventing he art disease, osteoporosis, and possibly breast cancer. Grodstein claimed that estrogen is one of many opti ons, and women are recognizing that they have other choices. 91 NAMS' Gallup survey of me nopausal women conducted in 1997 and 1998 confirmed Grodstein's claim. Women may or may not have been using hormone therapy, but they viewed menopa use as a positive experience and an opportunity to make the changes necessary to maintain or begin a health oriented life. 92 The International Position Paper on Womens Health and Menopause issued similar recommendations regarding estrogen use. Let us now take a closer l ook at the claims that hormone regimens served as safe and effective methods of hormone replacement ther apy. Evaluating positive a nd negative effects of hormones will be helpful here. Positive Effects of HRT Estrogen, its proponents claimed, can preclude or retard the effects of aging, menopausal problems, heart disease, osteoporosis, mental deterioration, colon cancer, and aging skin. 93 Consequently, in the middle of 1990s estroge n use was higher then ever. Gynecologists 90 Francis Grodstein, M.D., co-author of the article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on the significant increase of risk of breast cancer among women who used estrogen for menopausal problems. Grodstein has also authored or co-authored numerous other medical articles. 91 Nemecek, "Hold the Hormones?" 38-41. 92 North American Menopause Society, "Women an d Menopause: Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors. The North American Menopause Soci ety 1997 Menopause Survey," Menopause 5.4 (1998): 197-202; North American Menopause Society, "Part I: Postmenopausal Women's Perceptions About Menopause and Midlife," Menopause 6.2 (1999): 122-28; North Amer ican Menopause Society, "Part II: Coun seling About Hormone Replacement Therapy: Association With Socioeconomic Stat us and Access to Medical Care," Menopause 7.3 (2000): 143-48. 93 Claudia Wallis, "The Estrogen Dilemma," Time 145.26 (1995): 48.
101 recognized that there were risks associated w ith estrogen therapy. They, however, tended to accentuate the benefits. For instance, William A ndrews, M.D., previous president of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, claimed that eight times as many women died of heart attacks as of breast cancer. 94 To address concerns about cancer physicians claimed that reducing the dosages used in HRT diminished ri sks of cancer. They also claimed that adding synthetic progesterone (progestin) to the estrogen prescription can virtually eliminate the risk of uterine cancer. 95 The oldest and most common use of HRT wa s to relieve hot flashes, nights sweats, vaginal dryness, and other symptoms that usually occur around menopause when ovaries produce declining amounts of estr ogen. Other claims about benefits of HRT were about more serious health problems. First, HRT could reduce the risk of heart disease. Several studies, including the famous Nurses Health Study that followed 120,700 nurses for more than 10 years, established that postmenopausal women on estr ogen have about 50% less incidence of heart disease than those who do not take hormones. Al so, HRT appeared to improve a womans ratio of beneficial cholestero l (HDL) to harmful cholesterol (LDL) a nd also to maintain the flexibility of the blood vessels, reducing the risk of blockage. 96 Second, HRT, namely estrogen therapy, wa s supposedly the most effective way of preventing osteoporosis that makes older women susceptible to bone fractures. Studies have shown that estrogen lessened th e risk of hip fractures up to 50% if treatment began at menopause. New evidence suggested that this was true even if women started using estrogen at age 70 or older. Third, several small trials indicated that estrogen improved memory for postmenopausal women. Also, a tantalizing 1993 study established that HRT enhanced the mental operation of women with mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimers disease. Fourth, a large study, completed in April 1995, found that es trogen users had a 29% reduced risk of dying from colon cancer than nonusers. For women on es trogen more than 10 years, the risk was 55% 94 Wallis, "The Estrogen Dilemma" 48. 95 Wallis, "The Estrogen Dilemma" 48. 96 Wallis, "The Estrogen Dilemma" 46-53.
102 lower. Finally, HRT seemed to help maintain sk in elasticity because it helped maintain collagen level that keeps the skin appearing moist and plump. 97 Given all the above benefits, doctors were, perhaps unsurprisingly, handing out estrogen prescriptions with almost gl eeful enthusiasm. This is evident from Food and Drug Administration data which show that estrogen prescriptions in the United States more than doubled between 1982 and 1992. 98 And while gynecologists admit that there were risks to HRT therapy, they believed that the benefits outweighed them. Negative Effects of HRT Several negative effects accompanied the us e of hormone replacement therapy. First, hormone therapy, especially without the use of progestin (the synthe tic form of natural progesterone), increases the risk of cancer of the uterus. Second, hormone therapy possibly increased the risk of breast cancer; long-term use could pose the greatest risk. With The New England Journal of Medicine report issued on June 15,1995, and mo re recent reports, hope faded that progestin would provide estr ogen users protection against breast cancer, as it did in uterine cancer. In reality, it appeared that the combined hormones may place women at higher risk for breast cancer than estrogen alone. 99 Third, an alarming report issued in May1995 suggested that the long-term use of estrogen increased th e risk of fatal ovarian cancer. A recent JAMA report dated March 21, 2001, confirmed that women w ho took estrogen for 10 years after menopause were two times as likely to die of ovarian cancer as those who did not. 100 Fourth, hormone replacement could have unpleasant side effects, su ch as bloating or irritability. Finally, hormone therapy could be dangerous to wome n already at risk of blood clots. 101 The latest information is that hormone replacement therapy increased the risk of heart disease in women who already have 97 Wallis, "The Estrogen Dilemma" 46-53. 98 Wallis, "The Estrogen Dilemma" 46-53. 99 Graham Colditz, et al., "The Use of Estrogens an d Progestins and the Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women," The New England Journal of Medicine 332.24 (1995): 1589-94. 100 Carmen Rodriguez, et al., "Estrogen Replacemen t Therapy and Ovarian Can cer Mortality in a Large Perspective Study of US Women," Journal of American Medical Association 285.11 (Mar. 21, 2001): 1460-65.
103 a heart disease by 50% in the first year of treatment and showed no benefi t from four years of hormone treatment. Additionally, another study, a pa rt of Women's Health Initiative, found that women who at the beginning of th e study did not have heart disease had a slight increase in heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots in the lungs after three year s of use of hormone treatment. 102 Despite these serious negative effects of hormone replacement, millions of women received prescriptions for th em from their physicians. New guidelines may change the way clinicians prescribe hormone th erapy. Besides the medical profe ssion's view of menopause as a disease, other factors may have contributed to the place of hormone therapy as a preferred treatment for menopausal women. Profits and Menopause From an economic standpoint, menopause re presents a gold mine for hormone drug manufacturers. In 1997 some estimates show that about 30 million women in the United States were postmenopausal and approximately 10-11 million were on hormone replacement therapy or HRT. 103 Most HRT users (7.5-9 million) are on Premar in, a brand name for conjugated estrogens made from the urine of pregnant horses. It wa s the most widely-prescribed medicine in the United States in 1996. 104 If strong and rapidly growing sa les indicate a trend, Premarin will continue to hold the primary position as the most often-prescribed hormonal drug. Premarin sales were $865 million in 1996, up 57% from 1992. 105 Worldwide sales were more than 1 billion, up 60% since 1992. 106 Hormone replacement medication sa les reached $1.7 billion in 2000 and about two thirds of it was in Premarin. 107 In 2001 American women spent $2.75 billion on 101 Northrup, Wisdom 145-50. 102 Grady, "Scientists." 103 Bruce Ingersoll, "American Home Product Gets a Boost as FDA Rejects Generics of Premarin," The Wall Street Journal May 6, 1997: B6. 104 US Food and Drug Administration, "FDA Backgrounder on Conjugated Estrogens," US Food and Drug Administration, May 5, 1997, http://www.fda .gov/cder/cebackground.htm (July 3, 2001). 105 Ingersoll, "Generics" B6. 106 Ingersoll, "Generics" B6. 107 "Study: Low Hormone Doses Effective Menopause Treatment," The Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2001, http://interactive.wsj.com/archive/retrieve.cgi?i d=DI-CO-20010604-007089.djm (June 27, 2001).
104 Premarin, making it the third most commonly pres cribed drug in the United States last year, with more than 45 million prescriptions dispensed. 108 In 2000, the estimate for the number of women over 50 years old in the United States is 41.75 million and about 31.2 million are over 55 (compared with 28.7 million in 1990). 109 The number of women over 55 in the Unite States is estimated to be 45.9 million in 2020. The projected number of Canadian women age 50 and older in 2000 was 4 million or 15% of the Canadian population. On the global scale there are over 470 million 50 or older and 30% live to age 80. 110 The above figures are significant because the average age of natural (spontaneous) menopause (not premature) for women in the Western world is about 51 years. Life expectancy of a woman is predicted at 79.7 ye ars. Currently, a woman who lives to age 54 can expect to live 84.3 years. About two thirds of the total Unite St ates population will live to age 85 or more, and most women spend one third to one half of their lives in post menopause. In the year 2000 the rough estimate of the number of the women in United States reaching menopause is 1,328,000 natural and 481,000 surgical menopause, to taling 1,809,000 plus or over 4,900 per day. 111 The National Institutes of Health issued a news re port in 1997 stating that about 75% of all women experience some adverse symptoms surrounding menopause, possibly because of the loss of hormone estrogen and its beneficial effects. 112 This fact represents a huge market for manufacturers of hormone products, notably for Wyeth, 113 whose drug Premarin is, according to seve ral reports, the worlds biggest selling estrogen product. 114 The drug companies' incentive to promote and market HRT for short-term and, especially, long-term use in order to create profits seems to be beyond doubt. The goals of drug companies, however, often do not serve those women whose need for hormone replacement was questionable. Clinicians often follow drug companies' recommendations and, without regard 108 Grady, "Scientists." 109 North American Menopause Society, "Statistical Facts and Figures," North American Menopause Society, www.menopause.org/aboutm/stats.html (June 24, 2001). 110 North American Menopause Society, "Statistical." 111 North American Menopause Society, "Statistical." 112 National Institutes of Health, "Therapy" 5. Formerly the American Ho me Products Corporation 113 114 Elsye Tanouye, "Estrogen Study Shifts Ground for Women and for Drug Firms," Wall Street Journal June 15, 1995: A1.
105 for actual individual need, prescr ibe those drugs to all postme nopausal women as a preventive measure. Drug companies often funded the studi es that afterwards issued guidelines for physicians. 115 By treating menopause as disease, the medical profession may have violated the rights of women who relied on their physicians' recommenda tions to treat the symptoms with synthetic hormones. Approaching menopause as a disease, may have had a dele terious effect on health of millions of women who took these hormones. Me nopause is a natural stage in every woman's life; declaring that menopause is a disease, wh atever the motivation, was a mistake. Routine prescription, without solid research to support it a consequence of the zeal and profit motives of drug companies, was another mistake. Those errors violated women's rights, especially the right to informed consent. Most medical practitioners seem to have followed the guidelines of their peers, drug companies, and professional associa tions regarding hormone therapy prescription and treatment. In doing so they adhered to the professional standard of information disclosure about the risks and benefits of hormonal therapy. By us ing a relaxed standard of evidence and medical judgment, the profession showed deficient respec t for patients' autonomy and it may have caused needless fear and harm to unknown number of women. In the next chapter I will address the genera l problems and the limits of informed consent in practice. I will also analy ze the routine prescription of HRT regimens to menopausal women in terms of the tenets of informed consent. 115 Northrup, Wisdom 136.
Chapter 5 The Problems and the Limits of Informed Consent in Practice Legal theorists and most bioethicists agree that informed consent of competent patients is ethically necessary, which implies that they have sufficiently explained the nature of informed consent. Some object to this notion, arguing that law and ethics achieved neither closure nor adequate explanation of informed consent. 1 Although ethical necessity is obvious to proponents of informed consent, those who have to provide it in practice, such as practicing clinicians, are at most halfhearted about it. Moreover, even those clinicians who are committed to informed consent are unclear about how to use it at bedside. Many clinicians question the need for it in the therapeutic setting. They also question its underlying assumptions such as that "the most competent patients are ready, willing and able to participate in medical decision making, as the proponents of informed consent claim." 2 Consequently, regardless of lawyers and bioethicists position that the right to informed consent is beyond doubt, clinicians remain not only unconvinced but, more critically, uncommitted to it. Additionally, a substantial number of clinicians view the idea of informed consent as a myth. 3 Informed Consent and the Physician-Patient Relationship Clinicians' skepticism about informed consent is troubling given that informed consent is the most profound and far-reaching issue in medical ethics in the last three decades. Its purpose is to give power to patients who have traditionally not spoken and have been powerless in the 1 Wear, Consent 2. Wear, Consent 2. 2 Wear, Consent 2. 3 106
107 light of medical proficiency and authority. 4 Informed consent places obligations on health care providers to supply information to patients so that they can form th eir own views and make decisions concerning the nature of their health care. Informed consent also gives power to patients to implement their decisi ons, a power or right to reject medical treatment. Consequently, some view informed consent as the cutting edge of the patient-autonomy movement. The proponents of the autonomy-based medical ethi cs advocate a general restructuring of the model of every interaction betw een patients and physicians. Some ethicists claim that a cogent and clinically effective tool for respecting and enhancing patient autonom y is not available. Consequently, physicians view patients' refusal of medical treatment w ith suspicion and are uncommitted to providing effective services, which makes respect for patient autonomy an empty notion and the improvements are lacking. 5 Under these circumstances, patients' autonomy is simply a formality. Some proponents of the respect for aut onomy play the trump card that offers a reductionistic view of autonomy, i.e., that we must be free to choose or that we must have freedom from interference. 6 This definition is based on the idea that we live in a free society and wish to have certain freedoms for oursel ves and others. Accord ing to this view, all people are competent, able and free to manage their own live s and affairs in most areas of their life. Aside from few exceptions, our freedom ensures that we can pursue our lives in terms of our own values, beliefs, and experiences, regardless of how clear or cloudy these are to us, and without concern as to whether others concur with our agenda, or see us as making foolish, stupid, or tragic choices. 7 Also, our rights such as the right to co ntrol our lives and the right to be left alone protect us from external intrusions a nd interference. This vi ew suggests that our competence necessarily has a low threshold level, which everyone can easily reach. The law suggests that we should assume that all adu lts are competent and that those who question competence of others carry the burden of proof, which can only be severe mental incapacity or 6 4 Katz, Silent 5 Wear, Consent 3. Wear, Consent 39. This is a view of the principle of re spect for autonomy that Beauchamp and Childress identified as a negative obligation. 7 Wear, Consent 39.
108 dysfunction. 8 This view of autonomy is narrow and impoverished, and it makes autonomy the absolute principle. The respect for autonomy, as we saw earlier, is one among other principles of morality. One of the main threats to autonomy, whic h makes informed consent in health care a necessity, is people's illness, or wounded humanity, as some call it. 9 An onset of illness (e.g., cancer) may threaten their very existence. Other basic accompanying factors of illness, such as fear, stress, and confusion, and also the effects of the pa thology (e.g., discomfort and the distraction attendant upon it), and the treatment (e.g., drugs), cause a childlike regression. 10 Chronic illness in particular, ca uses loss of personal control, resulting mainly from pathology and requires as much therapeutic response as profuse bleeding. In these situations informed consent could play a crucial role in addres sing such regression and the functional loss of freedom it entails. 11 Consequently, patients may want rea ssurance rather than the decision making authority. Informed consent would remind them that risks are involved and that someone will have to make decisions. Physicians may feel a need to refuse the beneficenceseeking conduct from their patients because they may want to prevent the childlike regression that patients might be experiencing, or because th e choice in question is so significant that only the patients can address it. Informed consent, then, can help restore th e sense of freedom and self-determination that illness so often diminishes. An equally important role of informed consent may be to protect patients from their own inclinations in a vulnerable and exhausting situation. 12 A deep division between the proponents and opponents of informed consent is at least partly responsible for the ineff ective application of informed c onsent in a therapeutic setting. Physician Jay Katz, a proponent of informed consen t, describes interactio ns between doctors and patients as the silent world that challenges some of the most basic beliefs of free society. He claims that freedom and personal control of one's life are not possible in a field where others 8 Wear, Consent 40. 9 Wear, Consent 42; Edmund D. Pellegrino, "Toward a Reconstruction of Medical Morality: The Primacy of the Act of Profession and the Fact of Illness," Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 4 (1979): 35. 10 Wear, Consent 42. 11 Wear, Consent 42. 12 Wear, Consent 42.
109 systematically hold knowledge and power. 13 Opponents of informed consent argue that patientautonomy movement has made inroads among the h ealthy and educated but that ill people still seek physicians' expertise and rea ssurance, not knowledge and power. The sick, they claim, still want physicians to cure their ills and reassure them, not to educate them and force them to make decisions about health matters a bout which they know very little. 14 Both the proponents and opponents make valid points about informed consent, e.g., the preservation of values and the ineffectivene ss of the doctrine in pr actice respectively. Although the proponents of informed consent have proposed a doctrine that is freq uently too theoretical and unconcerned with effective practical application they have nevertheless provided a solid basis for the need for informed consent, i.e., the loss of too many values. 15 Its opponents are sometimes too harsh and go too far, but their crit icisms that the doctrine of informed consent (is) unrealistic, ineffective, and in effect, unintelligible are ofte n forceful and cogent, and merit a detailed reply. 16 Assuming the premise that there is a solid foundation for informed consent, while concurring that law and et hics have not adequately developed the doctrine to make it acceptable in practice, it is difficult to s ee how informed consent would be a myth. 17 To combat clinicians skepticism and to make informed consent workable in practice, some ethicists call for "a cogent, clinically realistic model of informed consent." 18 Some physicians, e.g., Howard Brody, proposed such model, a transparency model. This model avoids content-filled informed consent in favor of physicians' making clear to th e patients the reasons for the treatments they recommend. 19 In such presentation physicians might men tion a number of risks, and possibly the alternative treatments, not for the wider purpose of the informed consent, but to clarify the significant factors in physicians' decision making process. Brody beli eves that the advantages of his model are substantial. First, physicians are to arrange only the typical patient-management thought process and convey it to patients in a language they can understand. Second, the 13 Katz, Silent 3. 14 Wear, Consent 3. 15 Wear, Consent 3. 16 Wear, Consent 3. 17 Wear, Consent 4. 18 Wear, Consent 2-4. 19 Howard Brody, "Transparency: Informed Consent in Primary Care," Hastings Center Report 19 (1989): 5-9.
110 transparency model of informed consent has spec ific standards regardi ng what is involved and when the process is sufficiently completed. Thir d, the transparency model helps physicians avoid hyper-informing the patients about the proposed medical treatment or about their medical condition. Instead they offer a specific communica tion of the essential co mponents and pertinent issues. 20 There are several drawbacks of this model but some think that physicians can easily implement the missing aspects into the model, e .g., mentioning the risks that physicians view as routine and inconsequential. 21 Another problem with clinical medicine ha s been that physicians and patients are moral strangers who often do not share the same values and beliefs and do not understand each others' moral views. 22 Although the past image of physicians de picts them as wise and beneficent, worthy of their patients' trust, respect and a doration, this image has given way to a quite different, jaundiced vision. First, given that medicine, as well as society, have a pluralistic character, people hold fundamentally different views about the notion of good life and how to go about pursuing it and sustaining it. Second, physicia ns and patients are not likely to understand each others' moral views because patients are essentially strangers in a strange land, and because they are not aware of the special e xpectations and agendas of (their) caregivers. 23 On the other hand, physicians are caugh t up in what some call the e volved and idiosyncratic cult of medicine, a cult that remains largely isolated and unresponsive to the cu lture around it, and gives very little status to the patient's pe rspective with in clinical decision making. 24 In this context physicians' old thinking that M.D. means make decisions is still present in medicine. Such an ingrained attitude is not likel y to allow for understanding of, or the congruency with, patients' values and beliefs because it basically maintain s the paternalistic view that people dislike. 25 Consequently, a deep core of distrust has devel oped regarding the intenti ons and capabilities of the medical profession. 26 20 Brody, "Transparency" 5-9. 21 Wear, Consent 118. 22 H.T. Engelhardt, The Foundations of Bioethics (New York: Oxford UP, 1986) 256; Wear, Consent 36. 23 Engelhardt, Foundations 256; Wear, Consent 36. 24 Robert M. Veatch, "Medical Ethics: Professional of Universal," Harvard Theological Review 65 (1972): 531-59. 25 Wear, Consent 36. 26 Wear, Consent 36.
111 To what extent this view dominates among proponents of patient autonomy is unclear, although it is present in the writi ngs of well-known thinkers such as Robert Burt, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jay Katz, and Robert Veatch. Because Katz and Engelhardt are also physicians, their claims and those of students of medical ethics add additional cred ibility to the charge that a deep level of distrust has de veloped regarding the intention and capabilities of the medical profession. 27 Early concerns about patient autonomy ha d a negative basis in the sense that the medical profession posed profound threats to both patient freedom and well-being. 28 Biomedical research provided a strong basis for such concern starting with the trial of Nazi doctors and continuing with medical community 's own concern that biomedical research community became too ardent about in its deal ings with research volunteers. The medical community provided research subjects with little or no informed consen t about risky and often non-therapeutic interventions. A dditionally, biomedical research often focused on the most vulnerable and the least free segments of society such as institutionalized patients in prisons, mental hospitals, the developmentally disabled and the old. 29 Biomedical research posed a special pr oblem for the medical profession because researchers abandoned the tradit ional governing principle of physicians' primary responsibility to the protection and promotion of patients' best interests, regardless of the impact of doing so on other considerations, such as the advancement of medical knowledge. 30 Given that the goal of medical research is to bene fit the current patient-subject but also future patients, those physicians brought conflicting interests and agendas to the physician-patient relationship. In some instances, the emphasis shifted too far aw ay from research subjects, notably in the Tuskegee and Willowbrook experiments where, resp ectively, clinicians purposely did not treat 400 southern black men with syphilis, and also purposely infected developmentally disabled patients with hepatitis, so that they could st udy the natural progression of the disease. Although protests against this kind of research originated from different fields, the medical profession itself seemed to acknowledge the dangers and ina ppropriateness of such c onduct, and a directive 27 Wear, Consent 36. 28 Wear, Consent 30. 29 Wear, Consent 31. 30 Wear, Consent 31.
112 for informed consent in the research environment developed gradually. Institutional review boards also became a reality at the same time. These adjustments, however, did not stop growth of residual distrust that physicians might use patients as experimental subjects. 31 Extraordinary, life-threatening cas es also created a feeling of distrust in physicians and thus influenced the development of the patient-autonomy movement. 32 Those cases are set in big, urban hospitals and focus on conflicts between patients and physicians in extraordinary lifethreatening situations. Some examples include cases of patients with severe burns or spinal-cord injuries whom clinicians sedated or ignored because they refused aggressive treatment that would save lives but which the patie nts did not consider worth living. Other cases include competent patients whose lives physicians prolong in inhumane ways, particularly in intensive ca re, rather than let them die with dignity. Such cases are well documented in the movies Please Let Me Die depicting severely burned Donald Cowart, and in Whose Life is it Anyway with Richard Drey fus playing a quadriplegic. Those cases provide fuel for moral indignation. Both patients are comp etent and articulate and demand an end to their awful and hopeless situations. Phys icians appear aloof and arroga nt, refusing to honor wishes of their patients by drugging them, denying their competence, and handling them as ignorant, hysterical children. 33 In addition to insights regarding medical expe riments and extraordinary cases, there is a routine mistrust in social instit utions and in the ability of the sciences to produce adequate moral sensitivity and insight to keep up with the rapid expansion of knowledge and technical capability, placing the interest and freedom of citizens at risk. 34 Although this vision of distrust of medical field has a factual base, it is importa nt to mention that many clinicians embrace the idea of patient autonomy. Still, the assembly-lin e character of modern medicine does not bode well for improving physician-patient relationship. Hospital care and treatment are divided among loosely coordinated teams and shifts with no on e person directly in ch arge of the individual patient care. When someone is in charge, it is often an overwor ked resident pr oviding a variety 31 Wear, Consent 31. 32 Wear, Consent 31. 33 Wear, Consent 32. 34 Wear, Consent 36.
113 of services, or it is a tightly scheduled community physician who checks on his patients in a grueling daily run from hospital to clinic to priv ate office. Another situation is that many hospital patients do not have personal physicians and re sident physicians trea t them without knowing anything about their background. These physicians often hesitate to initiate personal relationships or to inquire about patients' fears, needs, and wishes because they will not have the chance to pursue these to any meaningful level. 35 Because resident physicians' workweek is sometimes 120 hours, in shifts 36 hours long, it is unlikely that they have the resources for anything more than to provide minimal care to patients. 36 The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education will impose strict new rules limiting resident physicians weekly hours to 80 because of the mounting evidence that 120 work weeks are detrimental to young resident physicians and to th eir patients. Medical residency lasts three to eight years and the medical profession has viewed long hours as just one more component of new physicians' education. The intens e schedule is supposed to prepare physicians for their careers, which often neces sitate that they make decisions when they are exhausted. This practice has attracted the atte ntion of the United States C ongress, which is pressing for legislation mandating shorter hours for medical residents. In March 2002, the University of Washington released the results of the largest survey of medical residents, which found that 75% of residents felt burned out and about one-thi rd believed that they occasionally delivered substandard care becau se of exhaustion. 37 Other studies showed that residents have increased rates of depression, car accidents, and obstetr ic complications. Another study showed that a resident who stayed up for 24 straight hours had the motor skills of someone with a blood alcohol content of .10, well abov e the legal limit for driving. 38 Teaching hospitals where residents receive their training often serve mo re poor and minority patients, which raises questions about the quality of care they receive. 39 35 Wear, Consent 37. 36 Ceci Connolly, "Shorter Hours Mandated for Young Doctors," Washington Post [Washington] June 13, 2002, A: A01. 37 Connolly, "Doctors" A01. 38 Connolly, "Doctors" A01. 39 Connolly, "Doctors" A01.
114 Similarly, because of the time constraints and stresses that lead to burnout and the nature of health care, private physicians do not address the psychosocial needs of their patients. 40 The arrival of managed care in the early 1990s has dr amatically decreased th e number of Americans receiving optimal health care. 41 Optimal care means that people have a well-trained primary care physician of choice who provides continuous primar y and preventive care. They also have access to specialists and hospitals they chose or that their primary care physician recommends, and they have a ready access to all ava ilable diagnostic and therapeuti c procedures, including newer medicines that may be very expensive. 42 It is true that Some Ameri cans still have access to this optimal type of health care with minimal out-of-packet expense, but most do not. 43 Escalating costs of this fee-for-service mode l of health care motivated empl oyers and employees to look for less expensive alternatives such as managed care, which initially stopped the escalation of health care cost. It did so by reducing the portion of th e health insurance premium that goes for health care. The rest of the premium pays for administ rative costs and creates profits for the managed care organization. Managed care or ganizations reduced payments to physicians, hospitals and other health care providers, reduc ed services by limiting patients' access to specialists as well as to expensive tests, treatments, and medicines. Although this reduction of costs lessened the rate of increase in health care premiu ms, which benefitted those who pay premiums, it did not lead to a decrease in premiums. 44 Managed care organizations kept th e profits to bene fit stockholders and rewarded their executives with increased sala ries and bonuses. For instance, U.S. Healthcare chief, Leonard Abramson, was to receive a $1 bi llion dollar bonus in 1996, after Aetna Life and Casualty Company merged with U.S. Healthcare. After the merger, Abramson role was to be that of a consultant to Aetna for five years with compensation of $10 million per year. 45 In contrast, the number of uninsured Americans has grown to 43 million in the same years and millions 40 Wear, Consent 39. 41 James Dalen, "Health Care in America. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," Archives of Internal Medicine 160 (Sept. 25, 2000): 2573. 42 Dalen, "Health Care" 2573. 43 Dalen, "Health Care" 2573. 44 Dalen, "Health Care" 2574. 45 New York Times, "U.S. Healthcare Chief Will Get $1 Billion," New York Times [New York] June 15, 1996, A: 32.
115 more are underinsured, which suggests that insurance companies may not be using profits to increase coverage or to reduce the number of uninsured 46 Some physicians argue that managed or fo r-profit care has had a deleterious effect on both patients and physicians and the nature of physician-patient relationship. For patients, managed care seriously jeopardizes continuity of care. Because the quality of care is difficult to judge, consumers base the choice of managed care entirely on price. C onsequently, employers and employees often switch to the lowest-cost plan, which m eans that patients go through a succession of primary care physicians. An additional effect is that contract terms change and physicians may drop certain plans, or the plan may drop them if it deems their practice patterns expensive. Moreover, primary care physicians' ability to refer patients to specialist or hospital depends on the plan's contract with specific specialists or hospitals. Finally, patients' access to diagnostic and therapeutic services as well as to some expensive medicines, is limited because the plan, not the patients' physicians may determine the need. 47 Physicians, on the other hand, are in the middle because they must do what is best for the patients without transgressing the managed care plan. Certain plans limit physicians' income when they prescribe expensive treatments and medi cines. Also, physicians have lost the ability to direct their patients' care because the manage d care plan approves every medical decision, prospectively and retrospectivel y. Continuous decreases in income force physicians to see an increased number of patients to maintain their income, leading to a decrease in time they can spend with any single patient. Less time with patients greatly increa ses the probability of mistakes in diagnosis and treatment. Conseque ntly, both physicians' and patients' satisfaction also decreases. 48 Some argue that significant improvements have occurred in the patient-physician relationship. As Katz, however, c ounters, there are two main problems with this argument: (1) a meaningful cooperation between pa tients and physicians is unlikely to happen until physicians learn to treat patients as adults rather than chil dren; until they learn how to differentiate between their ideas of what is the best treatment from those of their patients; and also until they learn 46 Dalen, "Health Care" 2574-5. 47 Dalen, "Health Care" 2574.
116 how to acknowledge to their pati ents (and often to themselves as well) their ignorance about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. (2) Medical e ducators have not prepared future physicians for the responsibilities of involving the patien ts in the decision maki ng. Katz claims that physicians' education in technical competence is remarkably high; their competence in shared decision making is not. Medical ed ucators, therefore need to be aware that learning how to talk with patients is as difficult as learning about diseases, their pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment. 49 And as Franz Kafka commented, to prescribe pills is easy but to reach an understanding with people is very hard. 50 To those who claim that physicians lack time to attend to psychosocial need of patients, Katz says that time cost is not serious an impediment or the real reason. 51 The high cost of surgical intervention, for instan ce, provides surgeons with ade quate compensation for taking the time to make sure that patients understand them and the treatment they are recommending. The real problem is the unfamiliarity with how to talk to patients, unwillingness to talk, embarrassment about admitting ignorance and uncertainty, and loss of income. 52 If time costs prove relevant, then physicians must recognize that those costs undermine disclosure and consent. Physicians then must try to identify thos e procedures that have high risk of morbidities and mortalities, for which full disclosure becomes crucial to honor good patient care. 53 Some primary care physicians claim that although every physician's time is limited, physicians can still address patients' psychosocial needs, as well as medical conditions, when trust is an integral pa rt of their relationship. 54 Observation of highly experienced physicians shows that they do not follow standard interviewing skills. They focus chiefly on patients' complaints or symptoms and at times interrupt them to ask specific questions early in the interviews. At certain times these physicians recogni zed clues, such as emotion in patients' tone of voice, or posture, which suggest a concern that patients might want to express. Physicians then 48 Dalen, "Health Care" 2575. 49 Katz, Silent xi. 50 Katz, Silent xi. 51 Katz, Silent xi. 52 Katz, Silent xii. 53 Katz, Silent xii. 54 William T. Branch, "Is the Therapeutic Nature of th e Patient-Physician Relationship Being Undermined," Archives of Internal Medicine 160 (Aug. 14, 2000): 2257.
117 use basic interviewing skills by asking simple, open-ended questions, such as, What is going on? with gentleness and softness that encourages patients to talk. After the second follow-up question, patients usually expre ss their concerns and physicians listen intently for several minutes. These brief but quick changes of pace in the interviews with patients help physicians establish their relationships with patients by dealing with their ps ychological and social concerns. Although most of the patient-physician r outine interactions lasted a few minutes, some were 30-40 minutes long. The flexibility in the am ount of time physicians spend with patients is a key factor in addressing their psychosocial as well as their physiological needs. There is a threat to this flexible element of physicians' pr actice and thus to the trust element of the patientphysician relationship, however, because there is push for physicians to meet industry standards by seeing a set number of patients a day. 55 To cultivate trusting relationships with th eir patients, physicians must address their psychosocial as well as their physical problem s because they are inextricably intertwined. 56 Until recently, physicians had an inherent advantage b ecause patients usually e xpected that they can trust their physicians. Trust, however, develops through a series of inte ractions where parties demonstrate trustworthiness to each other. To gain their patients' trus t, physicians must show they care (as demonstrated above), that they have integrity (by keeping promises), and that they are willing to serve as patients' advocates and ad visors. Patients need a physician they can trust when they need to make important decisions. If they become seriously ill, they may have to make a choice between surgical or medical thera py, whether to follow speci alists' advice or seek a second opinion, or make other decisions that may seriously change their lives. To trust their physicians' advice, patients must believe that their physician is reliable, understanding, and honest. 57 Given the above challenges, clinical medi cine now appears to be practiced mainly between strangers who often do not share the same values, with little time to share them, thus putting in jeopardy the therapeutic nature of the patient-physicia n relationship. Patient autonomy and informed consent are thus not only antidotes to skeptical, busy, physicians, but some 55 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2258. 56 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2258.
118 ethicists see them as absolute necessities because no one can speak for patient except the patient. 58 The above and additional problems are apparent in the decades long practice of routine prescription of hormone replacement therapies to menopausal women. Informed Consent and HRT Regimens Routine prescription of hormone regimens for menopausal problems has been problematic in many ways, but some are most troublesome: (1) physicians' recommendations were not appropriate, (2) clinicians' enthusiasm for technolo gy prevailed over consideration for serious risks, (3) clinicians tr eated menopause problems as ordinary medical problems that did not require patients' consent, a nd (4) clinicians relie d on the prevailing medical judgment, not the prevailing factual evidence to justify the practice. I will explore these problems in the context of the larger problems of implementation of the thr ee principles of informed consent: disclosure, understanding and voluntariness. Insufficient Disclosure In relation to the criterion of disclosure, I argue that while routin ely prescribing HRT to menopausal women, physicians provided insufficient disclosure because physicians minimized serious risks regarding HRT use such as increased risk of endometrial and breast cancer. The medical community guidelines, such as those of the American College of Physicians and the attitude of the clinicians regarding hormone therapy, has been that every woman should take hormones to prevent serious diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Clinicians recommended hormone therapy without relying on any substantive factual evidence from longterm studies utilizing randomized clinical trials to gather such evidence. Instead they relied on observational studies, which are not dependable in providing the proof that something works. 57 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2258.
119 Because the purpose of disclosure is to insure that patients have sufficient information for making decisions regarding medical treatment, clinic ians' failure to disclose the lack of certain substantive factual evidence was not justified. In other words, because no solid factual evidence exists for the claim that HRT regimens w ould prevent certain diseases, physicians' recommendation to patients to use those regime ns for such purposes, was inappropriate. It appears that physicians used the professional practice standard of disclosure, which allows the medical community to determine the standard of disclosure, and proposes that the proper role of the physician is to act in the best interest of the patient. Under this standard, the medical community determines what type of informa tion, as well as the quantity of information, clinicians should disclose to the patient. The pr ofessional standard of di sclosure, along with the reasonable person standard, is sufficient to start c onversations with patients but it fails to address their individual needs or their level of understa nding about a medical treatment or procedure. In order to help patients gain an adequa te level of understanding about their health condition, physicians need to open a dialogue w ith patients and help them feel powerful. According to Brody, physicians can reach this go al neither by reflexively disclosing nor by reflexively withholding any part icular sort of information. 59 They most effectively help patients by asking them to participate and talk, by carefully listening for the clues that patients provide as the conversation develops. The mo st helpful action is to assist patients to position the new information in the context of the patient's life ex perience and life story in the most meaningful, encouraging, and health-promoting way. 60 In the case of routine prescription of horm onal therapies, clinicians erred in failing to disclose the lack of good evidence to support their opinion that wome n should use hormone therapies to prevent diseases they may or may not get. By failing to disclose this critical information, clinicians' undermined patients' autonomous choice and failed to fulfill their positive obligation to involve their patients, to di sclose information, to explore and ensure their understanding and free choice, and to encourage proper decision making. Women have a right to all the relevant information about medical treatment because they are the ones who will suffer or 58 Wear, Consent 37. 59 Brody, Power 136.
120 benefit from the consequences of treatment a nd, therefore, the ones who should make decisions for or against a medical regimen. If physicians pr esented HRT as one of the treatments for their menopause related symptoms such as insomnia, night sweating, and hot flashes, women might have chosen an alternative treatment to HRT. For instance, they might have chosen to adopt healthier life habits by avoiding alcohol beverages, reducing caffeine intake, or avoiding spicy food and beverages, all effective in reducing hot flushes and night sweats. 61 To prevent osteoporosis women could have chosen one of the nonhormonal drugs, raloxifene, or they might have chosen no treatment at all. P hysicians, therefore, needed to utilize the moral rule of veracity or truthfulness when disclosing relevant informati on to their patients rather then to rely on their medical opinions or to simply follo w along the recommended guidelines. The moral rule of veracity, along with other rules, such as privacy, confidentiality, and fidelity, apply to medical professi onals or researchers and their pa tients or research subjects. 62 Some of the rules denote only one principle, e.g., respect for autonom y, while others denote more than one. The traditional code of ethi cs and current literature show considerable uncertainties and vagueness about the nature and st atus of norms and virtues of veracity. There has been disagreement whether veracity is an ab solute and independent obligation, or a special application of some higher principle. 63 Some philosophers think that veracity is an independent principle, as important as the principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. 64 The best way to understand obligations of veracity is to view them as specifications of several principles. Conscientiously following these specificati ons is crucial for strong physician-patient relationship. 65 The code of medical ethics, however, traditionally ignored obligations and virtues of veracity. 66 Neither the Hippocratic Oath nor the Decl aration of Geneva of the World Medical Association recommends veracit y. The Principles of Medical Et hics of the American Medical 60 Brody, Power 136. 61 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 9. 62 Beauchamp, Principles 284. 63 Henry Sidgwick, The Method of Ethics 7th ed., 1907 (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981) 315-16; Beauchamp, Principles 284. 64 Beauchamp, Principles 284; G. J. Warnock, The Object of Morality (London: Methuen, 1971) 85. 65 Beauchamp, Principles 284. 66 Beauchamp, Principles 283.
121 Association (AMA) never mentione d an obligation of virtue of veracity until 1980, thus allowing physicians unrestricted discretion a bout what to divulge to patients. 67 In the 1980 revision of its principles, the AMA recommends, without explanation, that physicians deal honestly with patients and colleagues. 68 This traditional indifference to veracity in medical ethics is peculiar because, virtues of candor, honesty, and truthfulness are among the most widely praised character traits of health professionals and researchers in contemporary biomedical ethics. 69 In the medical profession veracity pertai ns to comprehensive, accurate, and objective transmission of information, as well as to th e way the professional fosters the patient's or subject's understanding. 70 Three arguments justify the oblig ations for veracity. First, the obligation of veracity relies on the idea of respect for others. The respect for autonomy provides the primary foundation for justification for the rules of consent a nd disclosure. The obligation of veracity holds even when consen t is not at issue because it utili zes the principle of respect for others. Second, the obligation of truthfulness is closely connected to obligations of promise keeping and fidelity. 71 In our communications with others, we implicitly promise to tell the truth and to avoid deceiving them. In a therapeutic setting, the patient or subject enters into a contract or covenant that include s a right to the truth regarding dia gnosis, prognosis, procedures, and the like, just as the professional gains a right to truthful disclosure from patients and subjects. 72 Finally, relationships between health care professionals a nd their patients and between researchers and their subjects ulti mately depend on trust, and adhe rence to rules of veracity is essential to foster trust. 73 In the case of menopause thera py clinicians did not utilize the principle of veracity because they provided insuff icient disclosure of information regarding the risks of hormone therapy. They fa iled to disclose the lack of solid evidence that HRT prevents 67 Beauchamp, Principles 283. 68 Beauchamp, Principles 283; American Medical Association, Current Opin ions of the Judicial Council of the American Medical Association at ix (1981) 69 Beauchamp, Principles 283. 70 Beauchamp, Principles 284. 71 W.D. Ross, The Right and the Good (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1988) ch. 2, 16-67; Beauchamp, Principles 284. 72 Beauchamp, Principles 284. 73 Beauchamp, Principles 284.
122 certain diseases and that its use exposed them to the risk of other potentially more harmful diseases. Some might object that the argument (that while routinely prescribing HRT, physicians provided insufficient disclosure of risks of HRT), that women needed HRT whether or not physicians gave full disclosure of information. In other words, clinicians might have reasoned that it was better to help women who require d immediate relief from severe (menopausal) discomfort (insomnia, night sweating, hot flashe s) and to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis than to focus on a small probability that they may get cancer. Because physicians assumed that the benefits outweighed the risks, they believe that their condu ct was justifiable. Again, for women the cardiovascular disease is a more common cause of sic kness and mortality in most of the world than osteoporosis and cancer combined. Th is is especially important because some risk factors for heart disease are nonmodifiable. Those ri sks are age, the presence of heart disease or other evidence of atherosclerotic arterial disease, a family history of premature heart disease. The risk for heart disease, for instance, increases about threefold for every 10-year increase in age. 74 Although the risk of heart dis ease is significant, the objection is flawed that it was better to relieve severe symptoms of menopause and pr event the long term risk of heart disease and osteoporosis by relying on hormone therapy. First, health professionals ca nnot decide for patients to trade possible immediate relief over a serious risk later. This so rt of action relies on the notion that physicians know what is in the best interest of the patie nt. This is a fallacy because physicians and patients are basically moral stra ngers who do not share the same beliefs and values. The level of risk toleran ce, therefore, is for patients to decide. Ideally, The patientphysician relationship is founded on trust and confidence; and the physician is therefore necessarily a trustee for the patient's medical welfare. 75 This is a model of fidelity that depends more on values of trust and loyalty. 76 Since the nature of medicine and medical practice have changed, physicians and patients often do not have an opportunity to develop a relationship of trus t and loyalty. Consequently, it is important that physicians play the role of a gui de and help patients make decisions that may 74 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 15. 75 Beauchamp, Principles 312.
123 seriously affect the quality of their life later. S econd, because some of the risks for heart disease, for instance, are modifiable th rough exercise, not smoking, proper nut rition, and weight control, women might choose to use those measures to pr event heart disease. Physicians, therefore, needed to disclose that their standard recomm endations to women to take HRT for preventative purposes, are not based on any solid evidence. They could have counseled women about alternative treatments. B ecause the latest evidence shows th at hormonal treatment, for instance, not only did not help prevent heart attacks a nd strokes, but rather increased their risk, 77 the medical profession was not justified in issui ng recommendations wit hout informing patients about the lack of reliable evidence for it. Inadequate Understanding In relation to the criterion of understanding, I argue that physicians often did not address many concerns women are likely to have about menopause as a normal yet complex event in every woman's life and about effectively evaluating the long-term risks and benefits of HRT. Because the medical profession has viewed menopause as a disease and has treated it as such for at least three decades, clinicians provided insufficient guidance to patients concerning menopause. Most often clinicians simply provide d a prescription for a drug that was meant to keep women looking young, beautiful, feminine, and wrinkle free. Physicians were thus apparently trying not only to stop the occurrence of any fluctuation in hormones that accompany menopause, but also to stop the aging process. The short term effects of hormone fluctuation, however, do not necessarily require treatment. The severity, duration, and the extent to which they interfere with woman's life are determinants of the need fo r intervention. For instance, hot flushes that are not troubleso me do not require treatment. 78 Physiological symptoms, however, do not define menopause because menopause is a psychosocial passage that every woman experiences differently. An indivi dual approach is necessary to address the specific needs of 76 Beauchamp, Principles 312. 77 Grady, "Scientists." 78 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 8.
124 women. Some of the things that clinicians need to be sensitive to when addressing women's needs are: their (1) beliefs and attitudes about menopause, including their medical and nonmedical therapy preferences, concerns, a nd coping style, (2) s ociocultural and ethnic background that may affect (women's) concerns and choices, (3) employment situation, job satisfaction, and stress, (4) other life stressors, especially personal relation ships, (5) overall quality of life, (6) current us e of nonprescription herbal, nutri ceutical (a nutritional supplement designed for a specific clinical pur pose), or phytoestrogen remedies. 79 If clinicians do not discuss menopause related issues such as these and listen to women's concerns, they may not comply with physicians' recommended trea tment, e.g., they may not fill their HRT prescriptions. 80 To properly address women's concerns physicians must also evaluate both nonmodifiable and modifiable ri sk factors in evaluating and de termining treatment for a more serious menopause related problems such as cancer Nonmodifiable risks in clude family history of cancer, age, previous history of cancer, precurs ors to cancer, and reproductive factors such as the age of the onset of menarche and menopause. 81 Modifiable risk fact ors include estrogen treatment, overweight, nutriti on, physical activity, cigarette smoking, alcohol, radiation, and certain mammograms. This is particularly important because of the increased risk of cancers in postmenopausal women, especially breast and endome trial cancers, is connected to the effects of age and accumulated lifetime exposure to carcinogens. 82 Critics might object that while it is true th at some women want more general information about menopause, many women simply want their physicians recomm endation regarding HRT use because they lack time, background, and th e ability to understand all the available information, and are simply willing to trust their doctors. There is a substantial evidence that clinicians' perspective on informed consent and patient autonomy is predominantly that patients want physicians to fix and reassure them, not to educate them, and that patients are incapable of 79 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 8. 80 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 8. 81 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 21. 82 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 21.
125 comprehending, evaluating, and making decisions about their medical condition and outlook. 83 The clinicians' argument is that most patient s seek medical assistance because they want physicians' expertise in identifying and resolving problems that patients want solved. In other words, they want physicians to solve their h ealth problems, and sometimes they want their reassurance. Physicians also tend to believe that patients do not come to see clinicians so that they educate them about their health conditions beca use patients often fail to listen to whatever information physicians provide and because patients often fail see themselves as decision makers regarding matters about which they have no expertise and of which they are often very ignorant. 84 Furthermore, the argument goes, patients are wise about this because they often have as many misconceptions about th eir problems as they do insights. 85 Patients often see the basics of physicians' recommendation as an ab stract of a much more complex, developing, and uncertain situation. Finally, assuming that patient s have an interest i n, and are capable of, understanding their medical condition and prospect s, there is very litt le time for them to internalize and reflect on such matters, at least in the sense that would make informed consent anything more than a formality. For those clinicians, informed consent is a myth that conceals a much simpler realitythat of the patie nt who chooses whether or not to trust in his physician's judgment. 86 These physicians view informed consent as a concept without substance because they believe that patients they see every day in their practice confirm such a view. Whatever informed consent offers, those physicians do no t believe that patients spontaneously seek it. 87 This is important because it reflects patients' la ck of desire to exercise their autonomy and consequently make informed choices regarding their health matters. While it is true that many women simply want their physicians recommendation regarding HRT use, the clinicians must realize that they have a duty to educate their patients about menopause and issues regarding its treatm ent, regardless of womens desires to rely on their health professionals recommendation. In othe r words, clinicians have a duty to encourage 83 Wear, Consent 50. 84 Wear, Consent 50. 85 Wear, Consent 50. 86 Wear, Consent 50.
126 patients' understanding and autonomy in a mean ingful way. Failure to do so would violate womens right to know relevant facts or risks that may result from certain treatments. Simply issuing professional recommenda tions, without discussing the acco mpanying risks, suggests that physicians do not show respect for patient aut onomy. In other words, physicians serve their patients better and respect them as autonomous be ings if they educate th em about their health options and encourage them to make educated decisions. Admittedly, patients may have difficulties processing information about risks. Risk disclosures often lead subjects (professionals a nd patients) to distort information and promote inferential errors and disproportionate fears of ri sks. In other words, Some ways of information framing are so misleading that bo th health professionals and thei r patients regularly distort the content. 88 For example, clinicians can present the sa me information about risky alternatives as a gain or an opportunity for a patient or as constituting a loss or a reduction of opportunity. 89 If physicians use the second approach, it is likely that patients will experience more fear and distress about their medical treatment. In the case of hormone therapies, clinicians minimized the risks. This might have reduced women's fears about risks of cancer, but that so many women failed to fill their prescriptions and half of those who did quit taking the hormones within the year suggests women's uneasiness about horm ones that physicians could have addressed. Consequently, physicians need to look for the ways to overcome their skepticism about patients' ability to understand medical information a nd about the value of informed consent. One of the ways that clinicians could ove rcome their scepticism about informed consent is to view it as a basic medical management tool. 90 As such a tool, informed consent can enhance freedom in two important ways. Because illn ess threatens freedom, it requires, sometimes primarily, the special expression and exercise of freedom in the sense that clinicians need to stimulate self-determination in their patients to treat their illne ss effectively. Without patients' compliance and cooperation, medical intervention ca nnot be completely successful, and in some situations its success depends on such interventio n. In these situations, informed consent serves 87 Wear, Consent 50. 88 Beauchamp, Principles 90. 89 Beauchamp, Principles 90. 90 Wear, Consent 43.
127 as the most significant and e ffective intervention to encour age compliance and cooperation, especially in the people with chronic illnesses and people who take their bodies and health for granted. It is easy to prescribe medicines for a health condition such as hypertension. Only clinicians with special interest in their patients' well being can motivate patients to exercise selfdetermination. It is especially difficult for pati ents to practice self-determination with certain health condition such as borderlin e hypertension, which requires that they take medicine that will make them feel chronically wo rse, and to do some self-mon itoring to control the condition. 91 Another way to enhance freedom in health care by using informed consent as a medical management tool is to reflect on the positive aspects of freedom, beyond the minimal sense such as freedom from noninterference. We value auto nomy because it allows us to evaluate our choices in terms of our own personal values, beliefs, and life experiences. 92 Clinical medicine is a field that requires assessment of a variety of choices. Every clinical decision relies on value judgments concerning risks and benefits and the cost of choosing one treatment over others or choosing not to have a treatment. In considering these choices, informed consent may serve as mechanism for physicians to help patients id entify and assess choices regarding medical treatment in terms of their own values, beliefs and life experiences. Medical management thus needs to include clarification of values and negotiation. The role of informed consent is, at least in part, to emphasize and enhance freedom. 93 Some clinicians might object that besides th e limited time they have to spend with each patient in order to attain their more encompa ssing consent, such consent is often unnecessary because medical treatment does not require evaluati on of patients' basic values and beliefs, and the choice is simple. If, for instance, a person with pneumonia comes to see a physician, the treatment of choice is antibiotic ampicillin, for which not much reflection is needed. The most a physician needs to do in this case is to encourage the patient to take the prescribed medicine, and to take all of it without stopping even as she begins to feel be tter. In other words, chronic illnesses aside, which along with extraordinary cases and research experiments, represent the 91 Wear, Consent 43. 92 Wear, Consent 44. 93 Wear, Consent 44.
128 minority of medical cases, informed consent is unnecessary and unjustifie d in common medical treatment. 94 It might be true that in the case of a pres cription of an antibiotic for pneumonia, and in much of medicine where physicians are comfor table with their recomm endations and patients willingly consent, counseling and values clarifica tion are not necessary, but it is wrong to assume homogeneity of needs and task s in clinical decision making. 95 This view considers only the limited or negative notion of autonom y or freedom from interference and fails to consider what informed consent can achieve. In cases of continuing chronic conditions or patients whose disease has spread, many substantial value choices arise. In such situations patients may need time, reflection, and counseling. Moreover, physicians may need to help patients establish certain views, rather then just identify them. It is un realistic to expect patients to have adequately developed views about unexpected or extraordinar y situations. The freed om form interference view does not consider such situations. Instead, it focuses on protecting patients from those who might be the only source of insight and support. Under this view clinicians are supposed to use informed consent for all clinical situations without considering the variety of needs and situations in clinical medicine. Also, by failing to recognize the diminishments and vulnerabilities often attendant upon illness, the 'freedom from interference' view fails to recognize two corollary r ealities: (1) that patients often n eed help and encouragement toward accomplishing further reflection and insight and (2) that sometimes they are essentially incapable of doing so. 96 The final point here is that besides clarification and nego tiation, other essential needs, crucial to autonomy and self-determination, emerge in some clinical situations. For instance, unfolding chronic illnesses require patients to make decisions that go beyond the scope of just treatment decisions. Those illnesses often affect their lives in inescapable and profound ways that they must learn to value their new way of life to which they have to adapt. Thus affected patients need clinicians to assist them to anticipate furthe r developments in their medical care so that they can adjust their activities, ambitions, and plans. They need to interpret for themselves what it 94 Wear, Consent 44. 95 Wear, Consent 45.
129 means to live with a handicap or a continuous threat to life. In other words, patients have to make judgments about what kind of person (they) have become now that (they) are chronically ill or seriously threatened. 97 In such situations physicians are an essential resource and informed consent needs to be a necessary component of it. 98 Clinicians' conscientious a nd forceful pursuit of patients' understanding and autonomy is crucial if informed consent is to be effective in pursuing certain values beside those directly related to patients' decision making. 99 This is especially important in developing physicianpatient relationship beyond the stag e of moral strangers and in es tablishing physicians as guides and advocates within the otherwise threatening medical assembly line. 100 In this regard, some writers insist on the therapeutic model of the physician-patient re lationship. This model suggests that physicians must be flexible and adapt to wh atever the patients' needs are in the sense of responding to whatever model serves patients the best, which may include paternalism, beneficence, patient autonomy, or mutual decision making. 101 In most cases, however, physicians must also accommodate the patient's deepest con cerns, confidences, fears, and dependencies in the relationship. 102 This inequality is inhere nt in the traditional physicia n-patient relationship. It places a great ethical weight on the physicia ns' professionalism, because patients depend on physicians to satisfy so many of their needs. A basi c ethic of this model specifies that, especially for the sickest patients, physicians need to nurture patient autonomy and be ethically committed to this goal. This also recognizes the essent ial therapeutic nature of the patient-physician relationship. 103 Other goals that informed consent might se rve include clinical goa ls, such as helping patients get a sense of the source of their health problems and what they can do about them, and 96 Wear, Consent 45. 97 Wear, Consent 46. 98 Wear, Consent 46. 99 Wear, Consent 73. 100 Wear, Consent 73. 101 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2259. For further discussion of medical models see T.S. Szasz and M.H. Hollander, A Contribution to the Philosophy of Medicine: the Basic Models of the Doctor-Patient Relationship, Archives of Internal Medicine 97 (1956): 585-592; E. J. Emanuel and L.L. Emanuel, Four Models of the PhysicianPatient Relationship, JAMA 267 (1992):2221-2226; J. Balint and W. Shelton, Regaining the Initiative: Forging a New Model of Physician-Patient Relationship, JAMA 275 (1996): 887-891. 102 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2259.
130 enhancing the possibility of successful inte rvention by generating knowledgeable, committed, even optimistic patients, which in turn can be rewarding in terms of patient compliance, cooperation, and self-monitoring. 104 The pursuit of informed consent might help to achieve many other clinical goals. Such pursuit of the restoration or protecti on of patient autonomy may, at times, need to occupy a center stage a nd be preparatory and foundational to all other goals. 105 For instance, enhancing functions to extend life is useless unless a patient values it or takes advantage of it. Sometimes the main goal will relate to other goa ls that are strictly in the domain of the patient such as active participation in rehabi litation, major modificati ons and acceptance of a lifestyle imbedded in chronic illness, or the performance of the 'last things' to the extent that terminal illness threatens life. 106 Informed consent, if extended beyond the legal protocol and if connected with referrals to self-help groups, community assistance, a nd counseling services, can make a substantial difference in patients' lives. 107 Informational Manipulation In relation to the criterion of voluntariness, I argue that routine prescription of HRT to menopausal women failed to meet the voluntarine ss standard of free informed consent because health professionals often well-intentioned bias toward HRT influences patients perceptions and responses regarding its use. Clinicians' bias toward prescribing hormone therapies resulted in informational manipulation, a major problem for informed consent. In the case of HRT, clinicians were biased toward HRT use and had a dvised their patients to use it for all transitory symptoms. Physicians also prescr ibed HRT to prevent a variety of other conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, severe de pression, and urinary incontinence, even though there was no solid evidence preventive evidence fo r such a regimen. Clinicians either relied on 103 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2259. 104 Wear, Consent 74. 105 Wear, Consent 74. 106 Wear, Consent 75. 107 Wear, Consent 75.
131 their medical judgments in making recommendations to their patients or they may have followed the guidelines of professional medi cal associations such as the Am erican College of Physicians, which issued guidelines on hormone replacement in 1992. In either case, if physicians did not disclose the facts about the nature of evidence, they have excluded their patients from making an informed decision. They have not respected thei r patients' autonomy. And to the extent that autonomy is essential to being a person in the highest degree, physicians have in these cases diminished the inherent value of th eir patients. In this case it is probable that clinicians used the traditional medical approach that allows them to decide what constitutes patients' best interests. Another instance of informational manipula tion of menopausal women is that physicians have presented the information about hormone th erapy as positive rather then negative in the sense that it influenced women's perception of the therapy and po ssibly their response. First, if women suffer from insomnia, night sweats, and hot flashes for a while, which may have caused exhaustion and interfered with their normal activities, women may want a quick relief to get a needed rest and resume normal activities. For those particular symptoms, HRT therapy is safe and effective because those symptoms are tempor ary and medical opinion is that the short-term hormone therapy is safe. Current attitudes of some physicians rega rding hot flashes, for instance, is that they disappear after three to six m onths even without treatment, although in some instances they may last four to five years. S econd, standard medical pr actice is a necessary but insufficient means to address specific needs of some patients, and physicians need to look for ways to meet such needs. For more serious conditions, however, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, until recently only the results of obser vational studies were available, which did not justify routine prescription of hormone therapie s for preventive purposes. Physicians should have used an individualized approac h, similar to the one that the International Position Paper on Womens Health and Menopause recommendstailored to the sp ecific needs and concerns of each woman and designed to provide an optimal quality of life. 108 Clinicians might object that their well-intentioned biases toward HRT did not breach the voluntariness standard of free informed consent because clinicians bias es are non-controlling types of influences, and women are thus free to refuse their recommendations. Although some 108 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 7.
132 patients know their rights, are informed, are comfor table around authority fi gures, and are at ease asking questions, clinicians can have a cont rolling influence over many and probably the majority of patients because they appear authoritative, unapproachable, and are more knowledgeable about patients' health. As Ka tz, however, points out, when lacking basic information about their conditions and alternat ive treatments, patients are unable to raise questions they want to ask, and often cannot ev en formulate them. They thus might appear confused, ignorant, embarrassed, and tongue-tie d. Physicians, and often patients themselves, view this conduct as confirmation of patients' incapacity to unde rstand their medical condition or the necessary and alternative trea tments to correct it. If physicia ns assume and foster patients' incapacity for understanding medical informati on, their assumption beco mes self-fulfilling. 109 Because patients often approach physicians with the awe, deference, and fear, their ability to question their physicians or to refuse treatment is limited. 110 They surrender their right to ask probing questions because they are afraid of offending phys icians and feel guilty because they believe they are imposing on physicians' tim e. As Katz points out, even highly educated people, including renowned non-medical university professors, have difficulty questioning their physicians' recommendations. Although patients' concerns might be distorted, they nevertheless guide their interactions with physicians. 111 To alter patients' distorted views, physicia ns need to vigorously oppose these views to avoid self-fulfilling ways in which they will affect the physician-patient relationship. 112 In other words, if physicians want their patients to develop more positive views of them, they need to help patients develop more favorable view of them. To do so physicians must show willingness to take the time to discuss the available options with patients to insure that patients' compliance reflects their own wishes. Without patients' participation in decision making process, it is uncertain whether physicians' conduct compelle d their compliance, which patients were unequipped to oppose. Compelled compliance can re sult in patients' disappointment, which may lead them to leave their physicians or to file malpractice suits. Also, while it is true that some 109 Katz, Silent x. 110 Katz, Silent x. 111 Katz, Silent x. 112 Katz, Silent x-xi.
133 patients want physicians to make decisions for th em, physicians cannot find out whether they are unwilling or unable to partake in the decision making until they radically change their perceptions of patients, assist pa tients in altering their percepti ons of their doctors, and learn to speak with patients in new and unaccustomed ways. 113 In the HRT case, informational manipulation is a factor because the medical community, as we have seen, defined menopause as a dise ase. This definition suggested that menopause requires medical intervention. Given that some pa tients view physicians as authority figures it would have been difficult for women to questi on their views about menop ause, unless they had a physician with whom they developed a therapeutic relationship. One of th e disturbing trends in health care, however, is that the patients who need their physicians' therapeutic powers are elderly or poor. 114 The Medical Outcomes Study, however, shows a troubling tendency toward diminishing health in those vulnerable groups who were enrolled in a health maintenance organizations rather than in private practice. Furthermore, patients in indemnity plans trust their physicians more than those in managed care plans. Some studies also suggest that patients are more satisf ied with the care they receive in private practice. 115 In HRT case, the majority of the studies were observational. Women who choose treatment are h ealthier and have better health habits than those who do not. Currently, there is no information on the habits or needs of poor women regarding hormone therapies. Even for the women who have good hea lth care, however, if physicians simply handed out prescription for HRT to women who were a pproaching menopause or any of the subsequent stages for any symptoms or conditions, they were displaying their bias toward HRT. Alternative and better treatments are available for preven tion of serious diseases. For instance, although hormones can help lower LDL or the undesirabl e kind of cholesterol, and raise HDL, the beneficial kind of cholesterol, other, statin drugs are a treatm ent of choice for cholesterol imbalance. 116 Moreover, the practice of simply evaluating symptoms and prescribing medicines amounts to impersonal transaction that denies th e essential nature of the therapeutic patient113 Katz, Silent x-xi. 114 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2259. 115 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2259. 116 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) an d National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Best" 18.
134 physician relationship, which consists of taking care of the whole patient . 117 This is necessary because patients suffer from psychological and socially related problems as they do from physiological ones, which require a biopsychosocial approach. 118 Given that menopause is a psychosocial passage, as well as a biological one, this approach to treating menopause related problems and conditions is preferable. In sum, physicians' skepticism about the existence and the need for informed consent, lack of clear guidelines about its implementati on, patient apathy, the assembly line nature of medical care, and the medical field's tendency to define physiological conditions as diseases that require drug treatment, prevent proper implemen tation of informed consent. Although the right to informed consent is an important concept th at many physicians respect, promote, and use in practice, it is limited in the sense that it is no t a substitute for a therapeutic patient-physician relationship based on trust. In a trusting type of relationship, phys icians use a variety of models to serve their patients incl uding autonomy, beneficence, paternalism, and shared decision making, while staying committed to the goal that th ey continuously need to nurture patients' autonomy. In the case of HRT, physicians simp ly followed professional community guidelines and their professional judgment in routinely prescribing hormone therapies to menopausal women to prevent serious diseases without giving much considera tion to the specific needs of patients. Conversing with women about their needs could have helped them select proper treatment or no treatment for their menopause re lated symptoms and thus fostered compliance with physicians' recommended treatment. As Katz points out, a younger generation of scientifically trained physicians may wish to experiment with new ways of interacting with patients to find out whether the practice of medici ne can be more rewarding to both patients and physicians. Moreover, In this age of depe rsonalizing medical science and acrimonious 117 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2257. 118 Branch, "Therapeutic" 2257. For further discussion of this approach see G. Engel, The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine, Science 196. (1977): 129-136; M. Balint, The Doctor, His Patient,
135 malpractice litigation, the need fo r such interaction is even more compelling; for physicians must learn whether a radically different dialogue with patients will re store confidence in the humanity of a great profession. 119 and the Illness. (New York: International Universities Press, 1972). 119 Katz, Silent xii.
Chapter 6 Conclusion and Epilogue In the preceding chapters I have tried to show the basis and the need for the right to informed consent, which some define as respect for people's autonomy because autonomy justifies informed consent. The concept of Informed consent gained prominence in biomedical field following abuses in biomedical research. Since the 1970s there has been an effort to incorporate informed consent into medical practice. Although some clinicians accept the idea of patient autonomy and, by default, the idea of informed consent, the effort to incorporate it into medical practice has met resistance. Those who embrace the idea of patient autonomy are not clear how to implement it in everyday practice. They claim that conceptual models are too complex and do not consider the problems of implementation in practice. Those who oppose the idea of patient autonomy claim that patients come to see physicians for help and reassurance, not to make decisions. Some ethicists classify these physicians as paternalistic or simply as physicians who operate on the model of beneficence that permits them to decide what is in the best interest of the patient. Other barriers to informed consent are the assembly line nature of current medical care with its attendant constraints on a physician's time, burnout and superiority. Yet, whatever the problems with respect for patient autonomy in practice might be, given that society's strong emphasis on freedom, it is not likely that anyone would be willing to give up the right to informed consent. The legal model of informed consent falls short of respecting the principle on which it is based, the people's right to self-determination, and clinicians and institutions often use it as a tool for legal protection, not as a tool for respecting people as autonomous beings. 136
137 Consequences and Future Trends Current emphasis seems to be to convince sk eptical clinicians that genuine consent can be effectively implemented in practice, and also to stimulate their patients to engage actively in the responsibility for their hea lth. The emphasis assumes that patient cooperation is crucial in successful medical treatment. Some ethicists suggest that a cogent, clinically workable model of informed consent is needed. Howard Brody offers an operational model, which he calls a transparency model, for which Stephen Wear supplied the philosophical/ conceptual model with needed clinical support/articulation/specification. 1 There is not much reliable information on whether anyone is implementing the model and if so, how well it is wo rking. Others offer practical models as well. Ethicists in medical schools teach resident physicians about the importance of informed consent and introduce them to the concepts behind it. Th e real change thus mi ght happen over time as each new generation of physicians familiarizes it self with the idea of respect for people's autonomy and implement it in a meaningful wa y into their practice. Other factors might influence clinicians to do the same. The bene fits of change might be respect for peoples' humanity or dignity, which suppor ts the ultimate goal of the medical field, good medical care. Epilogue One of the strong and venerable traditions in Western philosophy describes human beings--insofar as they are uniquely human--a s beings who possess reason and will. If this tradition is viable and is one that we should take serious ly, whether we accept it fully or not, then we also take seriously that functioning human beings deliberate carefully and, as autonomous, make their own reasoned choices. To be autonomous is after all, is to be a being who can decide and choose for oneself. 1 Stephen Wear , "Wear's Book on Informed Consent," 2002 (Apr. 25, 2002).
138 Prominent philosophers, such as Rene Descartes (1596-1650), Kant (1724-1804), and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), advanced the id ea of freedom and choice. In his Fourth Meditation Descartes claims that he, as the thing that thinks, ha s two basic capacities, understanding and willing or choosing. He thus implies that human minds, and by the Sixth Meditation, human beings have an ability to reason and make free choices based on their informed understanding. 2 Descartes claims that the human intellect is finite, while the will is far less limited. And while the job of human intellect is to come to beliefs based on clear and distinct perception, the job of the will is to make a choi ce whether to affirm or deny these beliefs. When human beings make choices before they have a clear and di stinct perception of the problem, they frequently make mistakes because the will is more extensive than the intellect. Given the limitations of the intellect, human bei ngs can avoid making mistakes if they wait until they have a clear understanding of relevant facts about the problem they are trying to solve. Being truly and completely free means that human beings can never be indifferent. 3 At times, however, they appear indifferent, in the sense that reason does not move them in one direction or another. In this instances, human be ings, according to Descartes, are the least free. In such situations they l ack knowledge. If they were always cl ear about what is good and true, there would be no need to make choices. Kant also argued that humans are free or au tonomous beings. He claimed that freedom is the source of all valuethat it is intrinsically valuable, and that other va luable things must not only be compatible with freedom but actually de rive their value form the value of freedom. 4 Freedom is, on the one hand, that faculty which gives unlimited usefulness to all the other faculties. It is the highest order of life, which serves as the foundation of all perfections and is thei r necessary condition. All animals have the faculty of using their necessary condition. All animals have the faculty of using their powers according to will. But this will is not free. It is necessitated through the incitement of stimuli and the actions of animals involve a bruta necessitas If the will of all 2 Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy trans. Donald A. Cress (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1979) 36. 3 Descartes, Meditations 37. 4 Paul Guyer, Kant on Freedom, Law, and Happiness (New York: Cambridge Univ ersity Press, 2000) 129.
139 beings were so bound to sensuous impul se, the world would possess no value. The inherent value of the world, the summum bonum is freedom in accordance with a will that is not necessitated to ac tion. Freedom is thus the inner value of the world. 5 Kant thus claims that human beings are unlike ot her animals in the sense that they have a will, which is beyond the influence of mere inclinations and that this fact about them serves as the ultimate source of value in this world. 6 As we have seen earlier, human will is self-legislating and a quality that makes humans autonomous be ings, which enables human beings to be selfgoverning agents. Kant demonstrated that they alone, unless there are ot her free and rational beings about which we are ignorant, can legisl ate universal moral law by using their own reason and wills, which places them under moral law and permits them to accept moral law. 7 Emerson also has much to say about human autonomy and self-reliance. He claimed that to be human is to be a nonconformist, to expl ore things such as goodness for ourselves because Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of [y]our own mind 8 Moreover, he suggested that the only law that is sacred is the one that respects our nature. 9 In other words, we should maintain who we are and speak the truth as we see it in la rge societies, in institutions, and in the presence of others regardless of their position. 10 What is true for philosophers and essayi sts is not often doctr ine for non-philosophical human beings. It is unfortunate, therefore, that patients--especially women who simply accept prescriptions for HRT--often fail to act as autonom ous agents, either because they fail to take an active part in their own conditions and therapy or because physicians, whose medical authority they fear to question, inhibit their autonomy. If Kant is right th at human beings are capable of legislating universal moral law, th en they ought to be able to make reasoned decisions that affect their own lives. One of the reasons for patients' passive and inhibited conduct could be the 5 Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics (London: Methuen, 1930) 121-22. 6 Guyer, Kant 130. 7 Kant's categorical imperative as a principle of autonomy is this: Always choose in such a way that in the same volition the maxims of choice are at the same time present as universal law. Kant, Grounding 44, Ak. 440. 8 Ralph W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance," The Portable Emerson ed. Carl Bode and Malcolm Cowley (New York: Penguin Books, 1981) 141. 9 Emerson, "Self-Reliance" 141-42. 10 Emerson, "Self-Reliance" 142.
140 inability to think independently. Kant, for instan ce, thinks that people can become independent thinkers if they rely on their own understanding, provided they outgrow their self-imposed immaturity, which he defines as "the lack of resolve and courage to us e understanding, without guidance from another." 11 Timidity and laziness, according to Kant, are reasons for peoples immaturity, even after they r each their physical maturity. Th is conduct makes it possible for others to make decisions for them. 12 For instance, patients are being lazy if they simply ask physicians to determine what medical treatment they need and blindly follow their advice. In this case, patients are not using their own reasoning faculties to evaluate physicians' advice and decide what is best for them. While this is not true in all cas es, it happens often. Of course, those in positions of authority, su ch as physicians and pa stors, might be happy to keep their position of power by warning those who seek their help of dangers and difficulties of thinking independently. To think independently need not be so difficult nor dangerous as it seems because people would learn from their mistak es. Errors, however, frighten people and stop them from making independent decisions again. Immaturity thus almost becomes a part of human nature, and people might even become f ond of this state and for the time being is actually incapable of using (t heir) own understanding, for no one has ever allowed (them) to attempt it. 13 Rather than exercising thei r natural ability to reason, Kant argues, people conform to rules and formulas, which can permanently k eep them in the state of immaturity, thereby limiting their freedom to think independently. A few people succeed in finding this freedom by cultivating their minds. 14 Despite the hurdles to overcoming immatur ity, Kant thinks that enlightenment is inevitable because, even in the most rigid society or situations, some will successfully overcome their supposed limitations and always think for th emselves. Those few independent thinkers will spread the spirit of a rationa l appreciation for both their own worth and for each persons calling to think for himself. 15 As the solution to enlightenment, Ka nt offers the freedom of public 11 Kant, "Enlightenment" 41, Ak. 35. 12 Kant, "Enlightenment" 41, Ak. 35. 13 Kant, "Enlightenment" 41, Ak. 35. 14 Kant, "Enlightenment" 41, Ak. 35. 15 Kant, "Enlightenment" 42, Ak.36.
141 discourse. 16 In a liberal democracy such as the Un ited States, this freedom ought to help encourage people to exercise th eir autonomy and their rights. If, then, to be genuinely and actively human is (a) to reason well and (b) to choose under the guidance of reason, the patients who fail to do either (a) or (b) or both (a) and (b) are in some real sense subjugating capacities that make them human. This is unacceptable because, as Locke points out, to enslave anyone is immoral and to a llow oneself to be enslaved is both immoral and unreasonable. 17 Patients might take a lesson from Locke: The natural liberty of people is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule. 18 Locke is talking about freedom under government, not about free and informed patient s, but the more general foundations of his Second Treatise of Government are the need for self-assertion a nd protection of basic rights. For him, as for Descartes, Kant, Emerson, and ma ny others, alienating one 's rights or timidly allowing others to disregard them is to sacrifi ce the autonomy that is in separable to a life worth protecting, and living. 19 The point of this thesis, then, is (am ong other things) that people should behave autonomously and should be no less autonomous in me dical contexts than in any other context. A corollary to this position and this thesis is that patients who behave non-autonomously also fail to make informed choices or are imposed upon to su ch a degree that they fear to make them. In this situation, patients seem to forget that finding out what they must do to take care of their health should be the prevailing concern in their interaction with physicians. Another helpful approach to overcoming fear in dealing with others and maintaining our freedom might be to think, as Emerson suggests, as those whom we admire, e.g., like Moses, Plato and Milton. 20 The problem is, as Emerson points out that we dismiss our thoughts without notice, simply because they are ours. 21 16 Kant, "Enlightenment" 41, Ak. 35. 17 Locke, Treatise 17, ch. 4, sec. 22-24. 18 Locke, Treatise 17, ch. 4, sec. 22. 19 Locke, Treatise 17, ch. 4, sec. 23. 20 Emerson, "Self-Reliance" 138. 21 Emerson, "Self-Reliance" 139.
142 Earlier in this thesis I spoke about the development of trust in physician-patient relationship, emphasizing that phys icians ought to conduct themselv es in a trustworthy manner. Patients could emphasize their right to informed c onsent. Both factors are equally important to insure that patients exercise their autonomy and make inform ed choices. Without trust in themselves and their own thought processes, when making choices in medical treatment or in any other context, true freedom is not possible.
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