Respecting the ethical principle of autonomy in end of life care decisions
evidence and practice    

Respecting the ethical principle of autonomy in end of life care decisions

Lisbeth Bourne At the time of writing was co-programme leader, Children and Young People and Mental Health Nursing, School of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, England

Why you should read this article
  • To recognise the ethical, legal and professional issues associated with end of life care

  • To understand how the ethical principle of autonomy relates to clinical decision-making at the end of life

  • To ensure that you are familiar with the concepts of mental capacity and acting in patients’ best interests

There is a range of ethical, legal and professional issues associated with end of life care and the decisions made by healthcare professionals. The complexity of such decisions may lead healthcare professionals to question whether they have fulfilled their ethical, legal and professional duties towards the patients they care for. Respect for the ethical principle of autonomy and an understanding of the law may assist in mitigating any doubts that healthcare professionals have about fulfilling these duties. This article examines the ethical principle of autonomy and how it relates to advance decisions to refuse treatment, do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation orders and the doctrine of double effect. It also outlines the relevant legal guidance regarding autonomy and end of life care decisions.

Lisbeth Bourne at the time of writing was co-programme leader, Children and Young People and Mental Health Nursing, School of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, England

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2019.e11335

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Bourne L (2019) Respecting the ethical principle of autonomy in end of life care decisions. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2019.e11335

Published online: 30 September 2019