Issues in complementary and alternative medicine
Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

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Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

3.4.3 Respecting autonomy is the foremost ethical principle in health care

Some commentators believe the pendulum has swung so far in favour of respecting autonomy that it leaves little scope for users to be passive recipients of healing. The desire to make each user an active participant in their own healing process can make it hard, or even impossible, for a user to refuse to engage in active decision making, and leave the decision to the benevolent practitioner. In this case, the user may waive his or her rights, by choosing not to be kept informed about changes in their condition, or the results of tests, preferring to rely on the practitioner's clinical judgement.

In the present climate, users may feel they are weak if they fail to take an active role in their healing and that somehow it is wrong to depend on their practitioner. This is unfortunate because, as discussed earlier, some users prefer to be wholly passive or to surrender some of their autonomy in order to be cared for. Clearly, a balance has to be struck between users' autonomy and their desire for dependence at a time of already diminished autonomy.


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