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Respecting Relational Autonomy
AuthorMcAllister, Brittany Paige
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Patient autonomy is one of the central moral principles practicing health professionals have been prompted to respect, owing to the development of technology and widespread critical examination of previous paternalistic conduct. Respecting patient autonomy was meant to affirm the individual’s right to decide about their health care. The present work rejects the claim that autonomy—as it is understood individualistically—is an adequate concept for judging what is important about patient decision-making. Respecting patient autonomy in a relational manner will better deal with the individualist's own conditions for decisional capacity since the expectation of self-governance actually undermines the benefits of mutual dependency. Because people are socially embedded and interdependent to a degree which affects their cognitive abilities, respecting relational autonomy is an approach which acknowledges the individual’s inseparability from personal relations. For these reasons, the family unit is a salient site for considering how patient’s decision-making is developed and fostered; thus families will prove to be more important for theorizing about autonomy than previously accepted.