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Durham University

Durham Law School

Staff profile

Publication details for Professor Deryck Beyleveld

Beyleveld, Deryck & Brownsword, Roger (2015). Research Participants and the Right to be Informed. In Inspiring a Medico-Legal Revolution: Essays in Honour of Sheila McLean. Ferguson, Pamela R & Laurie, Graeme T London: Routledge. 173-188.

Author(s) from Durham


Introducing Autonomy, Consent and the Law,1 Sheila McLean remarks that if the law is ‘to facilitate or protect the capacity of an autonomous person to make an autonomous choice – one that reflects his or her own values – it is necessary to develop standards that can ensure meaningful patient participation in healthcare decisions’.2 And, the development of such standards, McLean suggests, ‘is generally said to be the function of the legal doctrine of consent’.3 However, having analysed a sweep of English medical law (focusing on end-of-life questions, pregnancy, genetics and organ transplantation), McLean claims that the jurisprudence of (informed) consent is less than fully congruent with the idea that the autonomy of the patient is focal. Indeed, McLean concludes: ‘In building the rules around consent to treatment, courts have stopped short of ensuring that people are fully informed and therefore truly able to weigh their decisions and act in a self-determining manner’.