Promoting a patient’s right to autonomy: implications for primary healthcare practitioners. Part 1
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Promoting a patient’s right to autonomy: implications for primary healthcare practitioners. Part 1

Helen Taylor Senior lecturer in health law and programme lead for professional development for health sciences, University of Worcester, Institute of Health and Society, Worcester

It is an established legal and ethical principle that healthcare practitioners must respect a patient’s right to autonomy. However, clinicians may sometimes find this difficult for various reasons. Patients may be unable or unwilling to contribute to decisions about their care, and practitioners can find it difficult to accept some of the decisions patients make, particularly if they appear unwise or even irrational.

A lack of understanding of the law may contribute to the challenge of balancing an obligation to provide care. This article discusses the legal basis of patient autonomy and considers how this theory can be applied in practice. Part 2, in the next issue of Primary Health Care, will explore a range of situations in which practitioners may find respecting an adult patient’s right to autonomy challenging. Opportunities to reflect on practice are presented.

Primary Health Care. 24, 2,36-41. doi: 10.7748/phc2014.02.24.2.36.e834

Correspondence

h.taylor@worc.ac.uk

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 08 October 2013

Accepted: 26 November 2013