The Importance Of Autonomy In Health Care

Decent Essays
Autonomy is an essential value in Western medicine and in medical ethics, and encompasses the idea that patients are entitled have a moral claim to direct the course of their own medical care and to be given sufficient information in order to make medical decisions (1, 2). Autonomous decisions have been defined as those made “intentionally and with substantial understanding and freedom from controlling influences”. Considerations of respect for autonomy in the health care context tend to focus on situations in which decisions need to be made about health care interventions. The principle of respect for autonomy is often key to discussions about confidentiality, privacy and truth-telling, but is most strongly associated with the idea that patients should be allowed to make autonomous decisions about their health care (3, 4).
Beginning with the Hippocratic tradition and lasting for the next 2,400 years, the physician-patient relationship remained relatively unchanged: a paternalistic framework characterized by the authoritative physician being allowed maximum power by the trusting, obedient patient. Over the last 100 years, in response to both research and clinical practice, the bioethics movement ushered in the autonomy model, and with it, a new way of approaching decision making in medicine. The shift to the autonomy model is governed legally by the concept of informed consent, which emphasizes disclosure to patients of sufficient information to permit them to make
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