Varied and Principled Understandings of Autonomy in English Law: Justifiable Inconsistency or Blinkered Moralism? [Book Review]

Health Care Analysis 15 (3):235-255 (2007)

Abstract

Autonomy is a concept that holds much appeal to social and legal philosophers. Within a medical context, it is often argued that it should be afforded supremacy over other concepts and interests. When respect for autonomy merely requires non-intervention, an adult’s right to refuse treatment is held at law to be absolute. This apparently simple statement of principle does not hold true in practice. This is in part because an individual must be found to be competent to make a valid refusal of consent to medical treatment, and capacity to decide is not an absolute concept. But further to this, I argue that there are three relevant understandings of autonomy within our society, and each can demand in differing cases that different courses of action be followed. Judges, perhaps inadvertently, have been able to take advantage of the equivocal nature of the concept to come tacitly to decisions that reflect their own moral judgments of patients or decisions made in particular cases. The result is the inconsistent application of principle. I ask whether this is an unforeseen outcome or if it reflects a wilful disregard for equal treatment in favour of silent moral judgments in legal cases. Whatever the cause, I suggest that once this practice is seen to occur, acceptable justification of it in some cases is difficult to find

Download options

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,855

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Analytics

Added to PP
2013-11-24

Downloads
185 (#65,500)

6 months
2 (#257,900)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

References found in this work

Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - Oxford University Press.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
The Theory and Practice of Autonomy.Gerald Dworkin - 1988 - Cambridge University Press.
Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics.Onora O'Neill - 2002 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 34 references / Add more references

Citations of this work

Evaluating Medico-Legal Decisional Competency Criteria.Demian Whiting - 2015 - Health Care Analysis 23 (2):181-196.
Recent Developments.Cameron Stewart - 2007 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 4 (2):341-343.
Recent Developments.Cameron Stewart - 2009 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 6 (2):341-343.
Whatever You Want? Beyond the Patient in Medical Law.Richard Huxtable - 2008 - Health Care Analysis 16 (3):288-301.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Autonomy, Consent and the Law.Sheila McLean - 2009 - Routledge-Cavendish.
Paternalism in the Name of Autonomy.Manne Sjöstrand, Stefan Eriksson, Niklas Juth & Gert Helgesson - 2013 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 38 (6):jht049.
Autonomy and Negatively Informed Consent.Ulrik Kihlbom - 2008 - Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (3):146-9.
On the Autonomy Turf. Assessing the Value of Autonomy to Patients.Lars Sandman - 2004 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 7 (3):261-268.
How to Distinguish Autonomy From Integrity.Carolyn Mcleod - 2005 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (1):107 - 134.
The Many Faces of Autonomy.H. Tristram Engelhardt - 2001 - Health Care Analysis 9 (3):283-297.
Autonomy Modest.Rüdiger Bittner - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (S7):1-11.