Privacy, autonomy, and public policy: French and North American perspectives
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This article raises the question of whether in both the United States and in France, an individual’s autonomy and private decision-making right(s) in matters of health care and access to reproductive technologies can be conciliated with the general interest, and more specifically, the role of the State. Can a full-fledged right to privacy, the ability to exercise one’s autonomy, exist alongside the general interest, and depend neither on financial resources like in the United States nor on centralised government decisions or the medical hierarchy like in France? The contrast between these two modern democracies justify the importance of comparing them. I will demonstrate that overlaps do exist: the free exercise of religion and opinion, freedom of expression, the inherent value of each individual. What differs, however, are the institutions and how they provide, protect, promote, or frame access to and expressions of these democratic principles. The impact of the global economy, the exposure of people around the world to each other via the internet, and the mirror effects of social media, blogs, and other such forums, have created new perspectives that countries project onto one another. For example, does France now seem to tout ‘autonomy’ as a new and important value because it appears to be an ‘American success story’? Does the United States now seem to value human rights and a social-democratic approach because of the ‘French model’? There seems to be some truth behind these assertions, but as this article will demonstrate, the portrayals of what the ‘right to privacy’ is in the United States and what ‘socialised medicine’ is in France are not necessarily fully accurate.
KeywordsPrivacy Autonomy Solidarity France United States Comparative public policy
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