Persuasion as respect for persons: An alternative view of autonomy and of the limits of discourse

Y. Michael Barilan, Moshe Weintraub

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The article calls for a departure from the common concept of autonomy in two significant ways: it argues for the supremacy of semantic understanding over procedure, and claims that clinicians are morally obliged to make a strong effort to persuade patients to accept medical advice. We interpret the value of autonomy as derived from the right persons have to respect, as agents who can argue, persuade and be persuaded in matters of utmost personal significance such as decisions about medical care. Hence, autonomy should and could be respected only after such an attempt has been made. Understanding suffering to a significant degree is a prerequisite to sincere efforts of persuasion. It is claimed that a modified and pragmatic form of discourse is the necessary framework for understanding suffering and for compassionately interacting with the frail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-33
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomy
  • Empathy
  • Freedom
  • Medical ethics
  • Persuasion
  • Physician-patient relations


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