The Ethical And Legal Issues

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The Issue

The concept of autonomy spans both ethical and legal issues as it pertains to the aging population. This paper will focus on the ethical perspective of trying to keep a balance between allowing an aging (65+) person to maintain their autonomy when making rational and intelligent life choices while at the same time assisting them from making bad choices that might harm them emotionally, financial, spiritually or even physically in some instances. Autonomy comes from the Greek word for “self rule,” and defines a person’s ability or capacity to make choices based on their personal beliefs and values. Unless decision-making capacity is taken away from a person through legal measures, all adults are presumed to have capacity to
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As unique as we are throughout our lifetimes, we are just as unique in how we age. Seniors today who are 65-plus have a greater opportunity of living another thirty or more years, and while some are not healthy in body and/or mind, a great many are living full and active lives. It is usually the family and friends who will be the first to observe if someone is failing in ADL’s (Activities of Daily
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Living), and to what degree the person may need help making daily choices. People need to feel empowered in their lives in order to feel satisfaction and continue to have a purpose. Of prime importance in someone’s life is the feeling that they make a difference and that their thoughts and deeds matter.

Contrasting Views

While there are several components to the concept of autonomy, this paper will compare and contrast the elements pertaining to autonomy within the healthcare and legal system. When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965, the same year of the creation of Medicare, the OAA created the Administration on Aging (AOA), a division within the Department of Health and Human Services which funds community service programs for the elderly, as well as provides funding and administration for research projects in the field of aging. Amendments in 1972 to the OAA added the “National Nutrition Program” for elders. In 2000, the OAA was amended once again,
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