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The ethical principle of autonomy. which is to respect the decisions made by other people concerning their own lives.

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The ethical principle of autonomy. which is to respect the decisions made by other people concerning their own lives. This week we move to the ethical principle of autonomy. which is to respect the decisions made by other people concerning their own lives. This is also called the principle of human dignity. a very important principle in health care. It seems natural to us that each and everyl person would have the right to make theirown decisions about what Will happen to them, but this principle can, in real life. be very difficult to followI or to apply to situations. That is why we began with the ethical principles to do no arm (nonmaleficence) an to do good (beneficence). To add to the difficulties With this principle are other laws which must beconsidered. It has been said. sarcastically. that only young. healthy people from the dominant culture making popular decisions have the right to autonomy. There is certainly more than a speck of truth to this. We heavily legislate rights for the young. declaring them not competent to make their own deCISions. Underage children With cancer have been forced to undergo round after round of debilitating chemotherapy against their express Wishes, until an adult or court deCides enough is enough. Elderly patients have been declared incompetent when they can no longer live safely in their homes and forcibly been placed into nursing homes. deprived of all they have knoWn. in spite of their insistence that they understand the risks and are Willing to accept them. An 13 year old Jehovah’s Witness is allowed to die from a refusal of blood transfusion under the principle of autonomy but a 45 yeaHJld would be prevented from committing suicide Via car exhaust under the same principle (except. perhaps in Oregon). You can see that there is a close relationship between the principle of autonomy and that of competence. The problem with this is that competence as a legal construct is assessed by medical professionals, and decided by courts Who are at risk of bemg influenced by aligning With what the medical professmnal deems


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