Negotiating consent: patient agency and surgery from a European perspective, 1900-2000

Project Details


Today, nobody will contest the fundamental importance of informed consent as a legal and ethical requirement in biomedicine. Scholars have often depicted the rise of informed consent as a recent development in which patients have achieved (legal) autonomy since the 1960s. Yet, by focusing on conceptual changes, they have neglected the fact that patients have always had agency. This project challenges the view that patients had almost no autonomy in interactions with their physicians before the end of the 20th century. It aims to provide a long-term comparative perspective on patient’s role in negotiations about surgical consent in Europe from 1900 until 2000.

This project will use a practice-oriented methodology to analyze negotiations over consent. Rarely used sources such as hospital archives, medical journals and digitized newspaper articles, will be inventoried, gathered and analyzed in a digital repository that will support future applications for project funding. Using this innovative methodology, this project will extend existing histories of informed consent in which the patient voice has been overlooked. It will generate fresh insight into broader shifts in patient agency and into the behavior of patients in relation to physicians, relatives and other actors
Effective start/end date1/02/2431/01/28


  • Patient Agency
  • Consent Practices
  • History of Surgery
  • Doctor-Patient Relationship


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