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ss triple helix - Easter 2010,  Choosing Life, Choosing Death The Tyranny of Autonomy in Medical Ethics and Law

Choosing Life, Choosing Death The Tyranny of Autonomy in Medical Ethics and Law

Charles Foster
Hart Publishing 2009
£22.50 Pb 189pp
ISBN 978 1 84113 929 6

Charles Foster concedes: 'In many ways this book is utterly trite. It states something that is obvious – that medical law and ethics, dealing with the whole of the immensely variegated human condition, needs to listen to other principles as well as autonomy.' Yet this book is an important challenge to the dominance of autonomy in medical ethics and law.

Having summarised autonomy's dominance, he goes on to consider the place of autonomy in laws relating to abortion, consent to treatment, the end of life, and other issues. One conclusion is that, while judicial decisions appear to defer to autonomy, the courts do employ other principles.

The problem, however, is that the other principles (such as beneficence and justice) are often employed implicitly, giving the impression that autonomy is the only principle.

Recognising these other principles in medical law and ethics explicitly is important because it is necessary for 'intellectual democracy' and thus 'intellectual integrity'. This book will therefore be a useful and thought-provoking resource for those studying or teaching medical law and ethics.

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