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Australian Journal of Asian Law

Abstract from Volume 11 No 2 (2009)

Reconciling Family Paternalism and Autonomy in Taiwan’s Health Information Law

Chung-Lin Chen is Assistant Professor, Institute of Law for Science and Technology, National Tsing Hua University. SJD, MLI, University of Wisconsin Law School; LLM, LLB, National Taiwan University.

A unique issue regarding health information in Taiwan arises from a medical practice divergent from the standard Western practice: when a patient is diagnosed with a fatal disease, physicians sometimes inform other family members but withhold the information from the competent patient. On the one hand, this practice necessitates a legal response because of failure to respect patients’ choice. On the other hand, a strict law based on extreme autonomy may have such social effects as frustrating the attempted, and socially valued, benevolence of physicians and family members. In Taiwan’s current transitional era, when people have differing cultural preferences, that range from family paternalism to individual autonomy, it makes it difficult for the legislature to decide upon adequate legal rules. This article advocates legal reform for the protection of patient autonomy while arguing that decision-makers must pay close attention to changing cultural attitudes. I propose regulation allowing action by multiple institutions. While the legislature itself must take an important step forward, it also must confer discretionary responsibility on other institutions, such as the market, courts and professional communities.

(2009) 11(2) Asian Law 247

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