Patient autonomy: A view from the kitchen

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 8 (1):105-114 (2005)
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In contemporary liberal ethics patient autonomy is often interpreted as the right to self-determination: when it comes to treatment decisions, the patient is given the right to give or withhold informed consent. This paper joins in the philosophical and ethical criticism of the liberal interpretation as it does not regard patient autonomy as a right, rule or principle, but rather as a practice. Patient autonomy, or so I will argue, is realised in the concrete activities of day-to-day health care, in the material and technological context of care, in arrangements of health care institutions, in the physical training of people with disabilities, as well as in the concrete activities of care-giving. This move from conversations in the consultation room to other sites and situations in the practice of care takes seriously the empirical reality of medical care and intends to show that patient autonomy is practically realised in a much richer and more creative way than most ethical theory seems to assume.



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