Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

Special Section: Open Forum

The Legal Development of the Informed Consent Doctrine: Past and Present


For millennia physicians were admonished to obscure the details of patients’ illnesses and poor prognoses. The Hippocratic ethic precludes physicians from including patients in medical decisionmaking. That ethic demanded of doctors that they “[p]erform [their duties] calmly and adroitly, concealing most things from the patient … revealing nothing of the patient's future or present condition.”

Janet L. Dolgin, J.D., Ph.D., is the Jack and Freda Dicker Distinguished Professor of Health Care Law at Hofstra Law School, Hempstead, New York.


I am grateful to Cindie Leigh, former Reference Librarian, Hofstra Law School, for her intelligent and generous help with identifying and locating scholarly materials. I am also grateful to Dr. Samuel Packer, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, North Shore LIJ Ethics Committee and the Arthur and Arlene Levine Professor of Ophthalmology, for sharing valuable research materials with me.