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HEC Forum

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 145–169 | Cite as

Licensing Surrogate Decision-Makers

  • Philip M. RosoffEmail author
Article

Abstract

As medical technology continues to improve, more people will live longer lives with multiple chronic illnesses with increasing cumulative debilitation, including cognitive dysfunction. Combined with the aging of society in most developed countries, an ever-growing number of patients will require surrogate decision-makers. While advance care planning by patients still capable of expressing their preferences about medical interventions and end-of-life care can improve the quality and accuracy of surrogate decisions, this is often not the case, not infrequently leading to demands for ineffective, inappropriate and prolonged interventions. In 1980 LaFollette called for the licensing of prospective parents, basing his argument on the harm they can do to vulnerable people (children). In this paper, I apply his arguments to surrogate decision-makers for cognitively incapacitated patients, rhetorically suggesting that we require potential surrogates to qualify for this position by demonstrating their ability to make reasonable and rational decisions for others. I employ this theoretical approach to argue that the loose criteria by which we authorize surrogates’ generally unchallenged power should be reconsidered.

Keywords

Surrogate decision-making Licensing Harm 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author has none to declare.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine, Duke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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