Ruth Tallman Visits Feb. 27th

Professor Ruth Tallman will be presenting a public lecture entitled “Self-Governed Agency and Fitness to Be Held Responsible: A Consideration of Patient Non-Compliance” on February 27th at 2:30 p.m. in Dale Hall Tower Rm. 607.

More information on Prof. Tallman can be found here.


What is the proper response to the issue of patient non-compliance? If patients are understood as autonomous individuals, it would seem that a non-compliant patient’s decision not to comply should be respected. If instead, patients are understood as lacking autonomy, health care professionals and loved ones are justified in heavy-handed efforts to compel compliance. In this paper, I consider Michael Bratman’s account of self-governed agency and Philip Pettit’s concept of fitness to be held responsible as two lenses through which we might better understand the phenomenon of patient non-compliance. I will argue that, to the extent that we ought to understand patients as ordinary people in terms of their capacity to evaluate, choose and act, we should tend toward the assumption that non-compliance is a rational decision that should be respected. However, we should also recognize the disempowering aspects of illness and thus take special care to afford patients who want to comply assistance in doing so. Understanding non-compliance as a rational patient choice can benefit the doctor-patient relationship in that the doctor can meet the patient on her own terms, working together toward mutually-agreed upon goals, rather than the traditional model that tends to pit physicians, as the compliance-enforcers, against the non-complying patients in a frustrating, sometimes even antagonistic relationship.