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Doctors as Appointed Fiduciaries: A Supplemental Model for Medical Decision-Making

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/01/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)23-33
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date20/01/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


How should we respond to patients who do not wish to take on the responsibility and burdens of making decisions about their own care? In this paper, we argue that existing models of decision-making in modern healthcare are ill-equipped to cope with such patients and should be supplemented by an "appointed fiduciary" model where decision-making authority is formally transferred to a medical professional. Healthcare decisions are often complex and for patients can come at time of vulnerability. While this does not undermine their capacity, it can be excessively burdensome. Most existing models of decision-making mandate that patients with capacity must retain ultimate responsibility for decisions. An appointed fiduciary model provides a formalized mechanism through which those few patients who wish to defer responsibility can hand over decision-making authority. By providing a formal structure for deferring to an appointed fiduciary, the confusions and risks of the informal transfers that can occur in practice are avoided. Finally, we note how appropriate governance and law can provide safeguards against risks to the welfare of patients and medical professionals.