A doctor acts paternalistically if she forces, pressures or deceives a patient because she believes that it will make him better off. Examples of paternalism in medical ethics include compulsory treatment, refraining from telling a patient about the severity of his condition to protect him from anxiety, and refusing to offer a treatment that the patient requests on the grounds that he might regret it later.
My project is threefold. First, I shall discuss the concept of paternalism in philosophical and medical-ethical literature, and argue that there is a form of paternalism that is not well captured by the common definitions. Second, I shall explore how paternalism might occur in doctors’ communication with their patients. Third, I shall discuss when medical paternalism may be ethically justified. My project is partly based on video recordings of consultations at a Norwegian hospital.