Whether and when paternalism is justified

By Support

Since we only covered Goldman, you can focus on his piece in relation to Esmé Wang’s article and Lulu Wang’s piece on the podcast.

This week we examine three arguments about whether and when paternalism is justified, including the distinction between weak and strong paternalism.

For this week, I want you to think about how Esmé Wang’s piece affects how you think about the arguments put forth by Goldman and Ackerman. Her piece pokes at the neat distinction between strong and weak paternalism and so I encourage you to focus on that.

You are also welcome to include (but are not limited to) items such as:

  • Lulu Wang’s podcast on her grandmother (do you think the decision was justified or not),
  • what you think about the role of paternalism towards patients should be (i.e., when might paternalism be justified),
  • what this looks like in practice if you have any relevant experience in the field
  • other connections between this week’s readings and past themes or readings.

This is important: You do not know the mental health status of other people in class. You should proceed as if someone living with this condition is ‘in the room,’ so to speak, and recognize that those not living with schizophrenia often misunderstand it. We are not here to debate schizophrenia itself, but rather to use Wang’s arguments (which draw, in part, from her own experiences) to help shine light on the abstract debate between Goldman and Ackerman.


According to Goldman, ideal-regarding harms are:

outcomes that harm our capacity to self-govern and act according to our preferences.
Goldman argues that the question of medical paternalism highlights a conflict between two duties: the duty to respect a patient’s  and the duty of  . Each fill-in-the-blank is a single word.

Esmé Wang argues that simply by knowing the diagnosis of the patient, a doctor can determine whether the patient is competent enough (or autonomous enough) to make their own decisions about their treatment.