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Should patients get the treatment they want?
  1. Richard Knight
  1. Consultant neurologist, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh; E-mail: R.Knight{at}


Patients should get the treatment they want if it is the right thing for them, and it is possible and reasonable to provide it. Unfortunately, this simple answer to the question is superficial. In fact, it requires difficult judgements with uncertainty as to who should make them. Doctors have responsibilities to patients and their relatives, to the health organizations that employ them, and to society at large. These are often discussed and, increasingly, assessed (however, ineffectively and bureaucratically).

Patients have, arguably, the right to be treated correctly by a doctor in an appropriately organized health service. But rights have parallel responsibilities, even if perhaps unwritten and unacknowledged, although in this postsocialist world, patient responsibilities are less discussed. The right to good health care implies a responsibility not to deprive others of good health care. If people are generally unmindful of social membership, this is partly the legacy of the extreme

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