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The recent Supreme Court decision invalidating state abortion statutes, the much-publicized Michigan psychosurgery decision, the growing number of right to treatment cases, and the issuance of federal guidelines protecting minors and other legally incompetent participants in federally funded sterilization programs have prompted a reconsideration of the personal rights of patients within the physician-patient-state relationship. Recent malpractice cases reveal an innovative trend in tort law expanding the physician's duty to disclose information to a patient in order to obtain that patient's informed consent. This article will discuss several of the complex issues associated with the physician-patient relationship: how courts define the physician's duty to disclose under the present law, when informed consent is required; when an adult is deemed incompetent by the state to give such consent, and what special considerations arise as incidents of minority.
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