It's All Relative

Adira Hulkower, Lauren S. Flicker

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this issue of the Hastings Center Report, Daniel Brudney suggests that clinicians have an overly deferential attitude toward their patients’ surrogate decision-makers that is rooted in a wrongful investment of moral authority. He maintains that surrogate decision-makers have no moral right to decide for their loved ones and that their value in the decision-making process is limited to their knowledge of their loved one's preferences. If operationalized, Brudney's framework would ease the way for clinicians to remove a surrogate who cannot provide information relevant to the patient's preferences and to resort to a paternalistic model of decision-making. Brudney fails to consider that the value of the surrogate does not flow from the surrogate, but rather from the patient's moral claim to have decisions made for him or her by a loved one. This claim recognizes that surrogates have intrinsic value through their relationship to and knowledge of the patient. Bioethics consultation services can assist clinical teams in engaging with the human crowd that surrounds each patient and navigating conflicting values and goals. This relational approach embraces the “mire and blood” that is endemic to relationships and clinical encounters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-44
Number of pages2
JournalHastings Center Report
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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