Ackerman's Argument Against Individual Autonomy

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Individual autonomy is a central value in both modern medicine and ethics, but the role of medicine on autonomy is obscure. Autonomy can be most generally defined as self-government – yet even this is controversial. There is also a health care debate between who should win ultimate power -- the autonomous desires of the patient, recipient of care, and the paternalistic demands (due to significantly more knowledge) of the doctors. Paternalism, here, is the interference with the liberty or autonomy of another person, in order to promote good or prevent harm. In the same time frame as the issue of the revised 1980 AMA Principles of Medical Ethics, Terrence Ackerman released an argument that refuted the revision. Ackerman holds the view that “respect…show more content…
In this paper, I will first present Ackerman’s argument for this claim and then assess the factors that make his argument flawed. Ackerman’s argument can be presented as the following: Premise 1: Autonomy refers to a person’s rational capacity for self-governance or…show more content…
Rather, I agree more with the notion of accepting few limits to patient’s autonomy, when there is no danger of harming others. Additionally, I accept Kant’s view that autonomy has much intrinsic value for patients, where its goodness is derived from itself and nothing else, and is good for its own sake. Therefore, the patient always knows the best option for himself. While I do not fully disagree with Ackerman’s claims, there are many weaknesses found in his argument. In premises 2 and 3 – the illness of the patient has “transforming effects” and can cause a patient to not be fully rational – Ackerman refers to the underlying constraints that the doctor must deal with first, in order to respect a patient’s personal autonomy. Impediments brought about by the illness include cognitive, physical, psychological, and social constraints that could lead a patient to not be fully rational, and would need doctor interference. This is ideal only when the doctor is acting out

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