a1 Executive Director of the International Program in Bioethics Education and Research, at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
The Patient Self-Determination Act is a fact. Finally, respect for patient autonomy has been guaranteed. At first sight, there seems little reason to object to any measure that intends to increase the autonomy of the patient. Too long, one may argue, physicians have behaved paternalistically; too often, they have been advised to change this habit. If the profession of medicine is unwilling or simply unable to grant the patient the decision-making power that is her due, the law has to step in. One may add, this law in no way hinders professional autonomy; by requiring a hospital official to provide the patient with information about advance directive, the law actually reduces the work load of the physician, who is already overburdened.