Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 213-228

First online:

Foucault, Feminism, and Informed Choice

  • Carolyn EllsAffiliated withBiomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University Email author 

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The purpose of this paper is to show that the standard notion of informed choice is unacceptable and must be replaced. To do so, I examine Foucault's analysis of people in contemporary society, drawing attention to the ways power relations act upon us, and to the possibility of resistance. I show how feminist moral theory can be enriched by Foucault's analysis. Applying this new understanding of people and moral theory to an analysis of informed choice, I claim that the standard notion of informed choice is unacceptable, in part because it relies on a false conception of people. Its “necessary” features—intention, understanding, and absence of controlling influences—are much more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain than proponents of the standard notion believe. I end by offering direction for creating a new, Foucault-inspired, feminist theory of informed choice.

Foucault feminism informed choice informed consent power resistance