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From the Editor: Better Guidance for Surrogates

The March-April issue of the Hastings Center Report offers another in a series of articles over the last few years on the structure and the ethics of surrogate decision-making. Here, Daniel Brudney addresses how to help the surrogate deal with a treatment decision. A core insight he offers is that the structure of the surrogate’s decision has been misunderstood and the misunderstanding makes the task yet harder. As usually understood, the surrogate is supposed to be guided by the question, what would the patient choose, if the patient were making the choice herself? Brudney argues that this conception is impossible, and that the surrogate’s task is instead to consider the patient’s best interests, as illuminated in part by the patient’s expressed values and past choices. This understanding leads, he argues, to a different guiding question: what could the patient choose, given her values?

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