Scientific Contribution

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 683-690

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The relative importance of undesirable truths

  • Lisa BortolottiAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, University of Birmingham Email author 


The right not to know is often defended on the basis of the principle of respect for personal autonomy. If I choose not to acquire personal information that impacts on my future prospects, such a choice should be respected, because I should be able to decide whether to access information about myself and how to use it. But, according to the incoherence objection to the right not to know in the context of genetic testing, the choice not to acquire genetic information undermines the capacity for autonomous decision making. The claim is that it is incoherent to defend a choice that is inimical to autonomy by appealing to autonomy. In this paper, I suggest that the choice not to know in the context of genetic testing does not undermine self-authorship, which is a key aspect of autonomous decision making. In the light of this, the incoherence objection to the right not to know seems less compelling.


Right not to know Genetic testing Personal narratives Autonomy Open future Self-authorship Self-knowledge