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On paternalism, autonomy and best interests: Telling the (competent) aged-care resident what they want to know


  • Anthony G Tuckett RN MA PhD

    1. Senior Clinical Lecturer, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Queensland, Ipswich, Queensland, Australia
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Correspndence: Anthony G Tuckett, Second Floor, Building One, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Qld. 4102, Australia. Email:


This paper has been derived from a review of literature from a recent qualitative study that explored the meaning of truth-telling within the care provider–aged resident dyad in high-level (nursing home) care of elderly people. In the literature reviewed here, paternalism (as benevolent decision-making in another's best interests) is critically analysed. Autonomy is then described and its function in promoting health is underscored. Furthermore, this paper specifically challenges nurses to consider their capacity to really know another's best interests—particularly in the nursing home. Finally, a very simple recommendation is proposed for determining and managing the (competent) aged-care resident's informational disclosure preferences: ask them.