Informed Consent: The Role Of Autonomy In Health Care

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The principle of autonomy recognizes the rights of individuals to self-determination. Autonomy is important in terms of outcomes that are preferable to the patient rather than medical professionals.Any notion of moral decision-making assumes that rational agents are involved in making informed and voluntary decisions. In health care decisions, our respect for the autonomy of the patient would imply that the patient has the capacity to act intentionally, with understanding, and without controlling influences that would mitigate against a free and voluntary act. In this essay, I will be discussing the principle of autonomy based on the core values of informed consent, confidentiality, and refusal of health care in the physician/patient transaction…show more content…
This gives the patient the right to direct what happens to her body, and the ethical duty of the physician to involve the patient in her health care. The most important goal of informed consent is that the patient has an opportunity to be an informed participant in her health care decisions. It is generally accepted that informed consent includes a discussion of the following elements: the nature of the procedure, reasonable alternatives to the proposed intervention, the relevant risks/benefits/uncertainties related to each alternative, assessment of patient understanding, and the acceptance of the intervention by the patient. The physician should make it clear to the patient that she is participating in a decision-making process, and not merely signing a form. This process should be seen as an invitation for the patient to participate in health care decisions. The physician is also generally obligated to provide a recommendation and share his reasoning process with the patient. To ensure comprehension of the discussion, it should be discussed in layperson’s terms, with the patient’s understanding assessed periodically…show more content…
Confidentiality protects the autonomy of patients by allowing them to control information about themselves. This would include the right to decide who should have access to his/her information. This is particularly important given the often sensitive and personal nature of the information that medical practitioners can acquire, and the damaging ways in which such information could be used. The intent of maintaining confidentiality is to afford protection of subjects/patients from the harms of stigma, potential embarrassment, socio-economic manifestations, and illicit use of information. It is reasonable for patients to expect that information they divulge to their doctors or other health professionals will be kept confidential. Where the basis for the duty of confidentiality is the principle of respect for autonomy any breach of confidentiality means that the patient’s autonomy has not been respected, whether or not the patient is aware of the breach (UKCEN Clinical Ethics Network). Of course, a patient may still consent to divulge his/her private information. Threats to confidentiality include: indiscretions of health care workers, large hospitals with medical teams, and private health insurance schemes. Patient autonomy can be supported and ethical problems may be avoided when patients are given as much information as possible about foreseeable information

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