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The doctrine requiring physicians to obtain a patient's informed consent
before undertaking treatment is relatively young, having first appeared in a
recognizable, relatively robust form only in 1957. Yet the values that underlie
the doctrine have an ancient pedigree. The consent norm had occupied a
prominent and honored place in our legal thought for many centuries before
the courts began to develop a jurisprudence of informed consent in health
care. Also well established was the cognate notion that consent must be
informed or knowledgeable in some meaningful sense if we are to accord it
legal or moral significance.

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