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The past few decades have seen patient autonomy ascend to a prime position in health care. Patient consent is seen as a key component to expression of autonomy. Yet, interventions may also be justified without consent because they are deemed to be in the public interest. We observe some subtle shifts in balance in these justifications in health care and illustrate these with a range of examples. We hope thereby to stimulate a more explicit debate so that health-care professionals can manage these competing interests.

Original publication




Journal article


Clinical Ethics

Publication Date





203 - 206