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This chapter reviews the doctrine of informed consent focusing especially on the tensions that have arisen between the competing principles of patient autonomy and physician beneficence. Surgeons were expected to get consent from patients for the operations to be performed and the patients' options were to "take it or leave it". The right to informed consent becomes progressively more important as proposed diagnostic or therapeutic options entail greater risks. True patient autonomy allows choices to be made in the absence of external control. Physician beneficence versus respect for the patient as a person has arisen into a contemporary moral tension between two important ethical principles. Autonomy of the individual in making decisions on healthcare treatment has been a priority of the legal system. In the future, non-procedural information, such as financial considerations and individual physician performance will assume greater importance.
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