Biomedical ethics: Patients' rights
In the second part of our series on biomedical ethics, Pierre Mallia takes you through the rights of patients
Ever since the inception of the Nuremberg Code, patients' rights have become synonymous with medical practice. The code gave the first guidelines for participants in research after the Nazi trials and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Although human rights are violated around the world and the concept of universal rights for patients seems absurd, doctors working with voluntary groups abroad still use the same standards that they would at home.
Autonomy means self rule. An autonomous person acts in accordance with a freely chosen and informed plan. This concept of autonomy has been elaborated in the medical world over decades and has largely replaced unhealthy paternalistic attitudes on the part of healthcare professionals that used to be common and tolerated. A person of diminished autonomy is, in at least some respect, controlled by others or incapable of acting on his or her chosen plans of action. An