Can Physicians Demonstrate High Quality Care Using Paternalistic Practices? A Case Study of Paternalism in Latino Physician–Patient Interactions

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We argue that patient autonomy is a cultural value specific to Western culture and that the autonomy focus in U.S. health care may produce negative patient outcomes for patients from other cultures. To this end, we present a case study of a Mexican physician’s interactions with his patients and apply the method of discourse analysis to argue that (a) this physician’s interactions are highly paternalistic, (b) there is an appreciation for this among his Latino patients and in the broader Latino community, and (c) this physician provides high-quality ethical care precisely because his paternalism communicates important ethical values such as familial intimacy, insistence, and care. We further propose that paternalism may produce better outcomes for Latino patients.

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