Autonomy in Medicine

1136 Words Dec 12th, 2013 5 Pages
Autonomy in Medicine
Finneaus Parker
National University
February 8, 2013
Dr. Schlitz

Autonomy is the “personal rule of the self that is free from both controlling interferences by others and from personal limitations that prevent meaningful choice” (Pantilat, 2008). Autonomous individuals act intentionally, with understanding, and without controlling influences. Respect for autonomy is one of the fundamental guidelines of clinical ethics. Autonomy in medicine is not simply allowing patients to make their own decisions. Physicians have an obligation to create the conditions necessary for autonomous choice in others. For a physician, respect for autonomy includes respecting an individual’s right to self-determination as well as
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For the majority of their lives patients seek treatment from a family physician that has a general knowledge of their health status, behaviors, and family background. However, once patients reach the age where multiple ailments require the consultation of several specialists, care can become fragmented. The primary physician, who presumably knows the patient best, begins to play a smaller role in deciding treatments and consulting the patient’s family on advance directives. This fragmentation and discontinuity of care is pervasive once the patient reaches the end of life, and thus helps explain why treatment decisions at the end of life often differ from the wishes of the family and even the patient.
The relationship between a physician and his or her patient is inherently driven by outcomes. By default, a physician is trained to cure or mitigate the effects of the patient’s illness until natural death. However, the instinctive behavior of physicians at the end of life can result in more harm by encouraging advanced treatments that reduce the quality of life in a patient’s remaining days. Evidence has demonstrated that this leads to greater dissatisfaction among patients and their families, and it results in unnecessarily high instances of death in hospital

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