Medical paternalism – Autonomy – Verity Roat Language Solutions

Given the current circumstances with the pandemic, as a medical translator and copywriter, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about medical paternalism and how much autonomy we should have over own bodies.

What is medical paternalism?

Medical paternalism is when medical professionals make decisions for the good of a patient or the public without their involvement or even their consent.1 In the context of an emergency, either personal or global, there is a good case to be made for medical paternalism, but is it always necessary?

When should we have autonomy?

Two topics got me thinking about this. The first was the decision to not administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to under 40 year olds2. This was due to the risk of blood clots3, although it is said to be more effective in protecting against the Delta variant of COVID-194. The second was the ban on junk food adverts before 9pm.5

This led me to consider whether the government and/or NHS should make such medical decisions for us. In the case of the vaccine, as someone under 40, I would have preferred to have been given the choice. Medicine should be about informed consent, and the risk of blood clots is lower than taking the contraceptive pill6, which is often prescribed to young women and even teenage girls with inadequate information on the risks and side effects. The Delta variant appears to be more dangerous to young adults than other variants7, so I would have preferred to be given the autonomy to opt for the AZ. With regard to the ban on junk food adverts to avoid children and young people seeing them, is it down to the government to decide who eats junk food or is it down to parents to educate their kids? It’s hard to say; I can see benefits for both.

What do you think about medical paternalism? Let me know in the comments below. And if you need help with medical translation or copywriting, get in touch on

1 “Selective Paternalism”, Brian C. Drolet and Candace L. White, 2012, Source:

2 “Covid-19: UK offers under 40s alternative to AstraZeneca vaccine to boost confidence”, BMJ, 2021, Source:

3 “AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine: EMA finds possible link to very rare cases of unusual blood clots with low blood platelets”, EMA, 7 April 2021, Source:

4 “Covid: Two Oxford vaccines produce low level of antibodies against Delta variant, study shows”, ITV News, 29 June 2021, Source:

5 “Junk food ads to be banned before 9pm on TV, government announces”, Andrew Woodcock, 25 June 2021, Source:

6 “Covid: Woman’s fears after blood clot but family and doctors say still get jab”, Amy Farnworth, 26 June 2021, Source: 7 “Young, unvaccinated, over 50 or just had one dose? You’re most at risk from the Covid delta variant”, Holly Ellyatt, 29 June 2021, Source:

Published by verityroat

Verity Roat BA CANTAB MA TRANSLATION CIOL Career Associate is a UK-based Arabic and French > English translator, Copy-writer, Copy-editor, Transcriber, Role-player & Tutor.

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