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Substituted consent : from lunatics to corpses
journal contributionposted on 2007-05-01, 00:00 authored by Danuta MendelsonDanuta Mendelson
This analysis traces the origins and evolution of the doctrine of surrogate or substituted judgment, especially its application to medical treatment, including non-therapeutic sterilisation, decisions regarding life and death choices, and more recently, removal of sperm or eggs from incompetent, dying or dead males and females. It argues that the doctrine, which has been acknowledged to be a legal fiction, has an effect of devolving legal and moral responsibility for life and death choices, as well as non-consensual, non-beneficial intrusive procedures, from the competent decision-makers to the incompetent patient. It focuses on the subjective nature of the substituted judgment standard; the problematic nature of evidence propounded to establish the putative choices of the incompetent person; lack of transparency relating to the conflict of interest in the process of substituted judgment decision-making; and the absence of voluntariness, which is an essential element of a valid consent.