Volume 12, Issue 4, Winter 2012
Sister Mary Diana Dreger, OP, MD.
Autonomy Trumps All
Medicine Loses Its Grounding in Science
Over the last fifty years, medical practice has shifted to an autonomy-based model that promotes patient self-determination as the basis for decision making. Physicians and other health care professionals are often expected to acquiesce to patients’ wishes, even when these wishes are for inappropriate medical care. Three cases are used to illustrate specific conflicts between a professional’s understanding of the science of human biology and a patient’s autonomy. Medical professionals must carefully evaluate issues of patient autonomy in their practices if they are to provide care that displays deep respect for the full human dignity of their patients combined with respect for their own professional role and expertise. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 12.4 (Winter 2012): 653–673.