The first proposition I want to advance in this lecture is, in very broad terms, that the common law (as we in England and Wales know it) has recently made a significant swing. It has swung from a tolerance of paternalism (the idea that “doctor knows best”) to the promotion of individualism. I want to show you how that development has taken place in English law.
Then I want to pose the question: what are the implications of this development? Has the law yet fully captured the nature of the doctor/patient relationship? Is the law’s acceptance of patient autonomy our final destination in this field, or is patient autonomy in fact merely a more complex idea which means that the current state of the law is just a staging post from which we will have to refine our ideas?