The New Bioethics 21 (1):56-70 (2015)

Alistair James Bruce Wardrope
University of Sheffield
Recent criticism of the role of respect for autonomy in bioethics has focused on that principle's status as ‘dogma’ or ‘ideology’. I suggest that lying beneath many applications of respect for autonomy in medical ethics are some influential dogmas — propositions accepted, not as explicit premises or as a consequence of reasoned argument, but simply because moral problems are so frequently framed in such terms. Furthermore, I will argue that rejecting these dogmas is vital to secure and protect an autonomy worthy of respect. The concept of autonomy that is widely applied in clinical ethics emphasises decision-making competence, at the expense of considering the authenticity of those decisions. Respect for such autonomy is interpreted in largely synchronic and individual terms — concerned with the isolated decisions of individual agents — and thus neglects the diachronic and social dimensions of many moral dilemmas arising in the health care context. I will examine how these unwritten rules lead to an impov..
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DOI 10.1179/2050287715Z.00000000057
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