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The misuse of autonomy in ethical decision-making – time for a change?

  • Monica Crugel (a1), Adrian Treloar (a2) and Rafael Euba (a3)

Extract

Concepts of personal autonomy and freedom have featured prominently in British social and political history. They are widely regarded as a very positive aspect of British culture. However, the presumption of mental capacity and the privileged status of autonomy over the promotion of well-being may on some occasions result in unnecessary suffering and neglect. Currently, individuals are presumed able to make autonomous decisions about their treatment. Their autonomy can only be challenged through a proactive process, in which the health professional must provide valid arguments for overriding it.

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References

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Beauchamp, T. L. and Childress, T. F. 1994. Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 4th edn. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gillon, R. 2003. Ethics needs principles – four can encompass the rest – and respect for autonomy should be “first among equals.Journal of Medical Ethics, 29, 307312. DOI: 10.1136/jme.29.5.307.

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