Are Medical Mechanisms Relevant for Medical Ethics?

Melissa Rees, Siena College

Abstract: In clinical practice, it is widely assumed that the causal mechanisms which generate therapeutic outcomes are irrelevant for medical ethics. That is, when a therapy’s causal pathway is known, such information is neither: (i) covered by a medical practitioner’s duty of disclosure, (ii) nor is understanding a therapy’s causal pathway a condition for valid consent to either accept or abstain from treatment. I begin this talk by motivating and reconstructing what I take to be the best argument for this exclusion. However, I am unconvinced that it is the right account of disclosure and consent, and conclude by defending the opposing claim: in select cases, medical mechanisms are important for both disclosure and consent.