Abstract 摘要

This essay points out that informed consent in China today is often replaced by the “family decision” model, which is designed to embody Confucian family ethics and maximize the benefit of family involvement in medical decision making. The author, a physician, uses a specific case he encountered when treating an elderly woman with late-stage colon cancer. Because the patient did not know the whole truth of her condition, most of the medical decisions regarding her treatment were made by her children. Ideally speaking, a “family decision” means that both the patient and his/her close family members will be involved in the decision-making process. Yet, the author’s experiences show that in most cases, decision-making responsibilities shift from the patient to the family, especially when the patient is an elderly parent. Theoretically speaking, the Confucian ethics of humanness (ren) and filial piety (xiao) support family as the most appropriate authority for medical decisions. However, in reality, the author finds that this could be problematic when family members hide medical information from the patient—sometimes with cooperation from the physician. The essay recommends that more respect and autonomy should be given to the patient if the “family decision” policy is truly implemented