Informed consent is one of the cornerstones of health-care law and its basic principles have been well-established for decades. Informed consent law reflects the fundamental notion that every competent adult has a right to make the ultimate decisions about her healthcare that will affect her life prospects. A single driving goal animates informed consent law—respect for patient autonomy. Informed consent law preserves patient autonomy by protecting the patient’s bodily integrity and self-determination.
Canterbury v. Spence, a leading case on informed consent, set forth the key principle that “it is the prerogative of the patient” to decide “the direction in which his interests seem to lie.” Thus, the doctrine of informed consent compels the disclosure of accurate medical information consistent with the expert knowledge of the medical community.
This rule ensures that patients receive sufficient information to make their own decisions about whether to consent to medical treatment. Informed consent law’s long-established principles have been perverted in the context of abortion legislation. Anti-choice laws claiming to ensure well-informed decisions for women in fact misuse informed consent terminology to further goals antithetical to the imperatives animating informed consent law.