The Transmutation of Deference in Medicine: An Ethico-Legal Perspective

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This article critically considers the question of whether an increase in legal recognition of patient autonomy culminating in the decision of the Supreme Court in Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board in 2015 has led to the death of deference to doctors, not only within the courts and healthcare regulatory arenas in England and Wales but also in the consulting room and the health care system more broadly. We argue that deference has not been eradicated, but that the types of deference paid to doctors and to the medical profession have changed. In addition, whilst traditionally deference was extended towards the medical profession, increasing instances of deference being shown to other parties in the healthcare setting can be identified, allowing wider debate or recognition of the complexity of understandings, interests and aims of all those involved. Finally, we note instances in which deference to the medical profession has become more hidden.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-224
Number of pages23
JournalMedical Law Review
Issue number2
Early online date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Deference
  • Medical treatment
  • Respect
  • medical profession

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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