Informed Consent and Relational Conceptions of Autonomy

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 36 (4):375-384 (2011)
Abstract
The received view in medical contexts is that informed consent is both necessary and sufficient for patient autonomy. This paper argues that informed consent is not sufficient for patient autonomy, at least when autonomy is understood as a "relational" concept. Relational conceptions of autonomy, which have become prominent in the contemporary literature, draw on themes in the thought of Charles Taylor. I first identify four themes in Taylor's work that together constitute a picture of human agency corresponding to the notion of agency implicit in relational accounts of autonomy. Drawing on these themes, I sketch two arguments against the position that informed consent secures autonomy. The first is that informed consent is an "opportunity" concept whereas autonomy is an "exercise" concept; the second is that informed consent requires merely weak evaluation and not strong evaluation. On Taylor's analysis of agency, strong evaluation is required for agency and for autonomy
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Mary Twomey (2012). Autonomy and Reason: Treatment Choice in Breast Cancer. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 18 (5):1045-1050.
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