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Ethical and practical considerations in prescribing animal-derived medication
  1. Lorraine Corfield1,
  2. Ingrid Granne2
  1. 1Department of Vascular Surgery, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Lorraine Corfield, Department of Vascular Surgery, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Hospital Avenue, Perth 6009, Western Australia, Australia; lcorfield{at}doctors.org.uk

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There are many reasons why providing a patient with enough information to allow them to make an informed decision about their treatment is central to good medical care. Some of these have origins in the law: certainly, informing a patient of the risks involved in a procedure or with taking a certain drug is essential in order to avoid charges of negligence should an adverse event causing harm occur. However, the duty of consent goes beyond this. It is no longer acceptable for a doctor to adopt a paternalistic approach in deciding what treatment should be prescribed. This is based on the principle of autonomy: a well-informed competent patient is best placed to assess their own best interests and consent to, or refuse, treatment accordingly. Patients who are involved in treatment choices and feel that they have made the best decision for themselves are more likely to comply with the treatment, particularly if this involves long-term medication.

The article by Vissamsetti et al in this journal makes it clear that the presence of animal-derived ingredients in prescription drugs is one piece of information that some patients need in order to make an informed decision about treatment.1 This may be for religious or non-religious (vegetarian or vegan diet) reasons. In their article, 40% of urology patients in one area of the UK had dietary restrictions to the use of animal products, with only 10% of these willing to take drugs containing animal products. The large percentage of non-meat eaters in …

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