Patient Autonomy And Right For Self-Determination

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This paper intent to answer difficult ethical questions related to patient autonomy and right for self-determination. What happens when patient health decision goes against public opinion? Nurses trained to follow a principle of beneficence and non-maleficence when providing care. They also taught to respect patient right for self-determination and his free will in making medical decision. Which ethical principle takes priority when providing care for patients and where do we draw a line between harm and respect for individual decisions.

Autonomy and beneficence are the two core ethical values that often conflict with each other and prevent nurse from making a correct decision. Autonomy is the right and a freedom to making own decisions without influence from others. It is one of the fundamental ethical rights. It identifies each man as unique person that possesses his own set of values, beliefs and views about the health. As nurses we have an obligation to respect individuals’ choices and rights to self-determination. It is also vital that patients make their own decisions based on accurate knowledge and sufficiently understand the situation.
Beneficence is act that benefits others. It could be any actions that prevent harm to patient as well as action that eliminate harm and improve health of others. How do we balance both in providing the most efficient care? What if the patient’s independent choice conflicts with the health care provider duty to look out for the patient? Practitioners and nurses value any treatment that would prolong life. Patients based on their personal beliefs might decide to go against the treatment. From perspective of healthcare provider it is not in the best interest of the patient and th...

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...care professionals. However, if nurses’ support for patients’ autonomy leads to harm, either to the patient or to others, nurses may stand accused of negligence, by act or omission. Promoting patients’ right to autonomy, regardless of the consequences, may also create tension between these rights and nurses’ duty of care. Nursing care is not an exact science and it is not possible to provide one answer to the infinite number of dilemmas that will confront nurses during their nursing career. An awareness of ethical, legal and professional obligations will at least help nurses to consider all aspects of a particular situation, in order to decide the best course of action. Armed with this knowledge they can confidently take their place within the health care team, advocating in support of patients’ right to autonomy, if, and when, the need arises (Hyland, 2002, p. 480)

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