Encyclopedia of Immigrant Health

2012 Edition
| Editors: Sana Loue, Martha Sajatovic


  • H. Russell Searight
  • Scott F. Perkins
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-5659-0_62

This entry focuses on autonomy in health care. A patient’s right to make decisions about their health and medical care is a fundamental value in the United States. Patient autonomy has a long history in US case law and more recently, in medical ethics. Legal decisions have consistently upheld the doctrine that competent adults have the right to determine if they will receive medical care as well as to choose the type of care they will receive. Similarly, autonomy is a priority in principlism, the prevailing framework for bioethical decisions in the United States. Among the four core ethical principles, respect for autonomy (self-rule or self-governance) is often given priority ahead of beneficence (acting in the patient’s best interests), non-maleficence (doing no harm), and justice (treating people fairly). Veatch emphasizes that autonomy is a foundational principle from which other ethical values stem. Autonomous acts have three components: (1) intentionality, (2) understanding, and...

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Suggested Readings

  1. Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (2009). Principles of biomedical ethics (6th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Benesch, K. (1989). Legal issues in determining competence to make legal decisions. In R. D. Miller (Ed.), Legal implication of hospital policies and practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  3. Blackhall, L. J., Murphy, S. T., Frank, G., Michel, V., & Azen, S. (1995). Ethnicity and attitudes toward patient autonomy. Journal of the American Medical Association, 274(10), 820–825.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Carrese, J. A., & Rhodes, L. A. (1995). Western bioethics on the Navajo reservation. Journal of the American Medical Association, 247(10), 844–845.Google Scholar
  5. Long, S. O. (2005). Final days: Japanese culture and choice at the end of life. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  6. Searight, H. R., & Gafford, J. (2005). “It’s like playing with your destiny”: Bosnian immigrants’ views of advance directives and end-of-life decision-making. Journal of Immigrant Health, 7(3), 195–203.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Veatch, R. M. (1984). Autonomy’s temporary triumph. The Hastings Center Report, 14, 38–40.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Suggested Resources

  1. Galanti, G. Cultural diversity in health care – a site providing case vignettes and descriptions of cultural issues arising in health care settings. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://www.ggalanti.com/index.html
  2. Grainger-Monson, M., & Haslett, J. (2003). Worlds apart: A four part series on cross-cultural health care. Boston: Fanlight Productions.Google Scholar
  3. Library index. The end of life: Ethical considerations – patient autonomy. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/3104/End-Life-Ethical-Considerations-PATIENT-AUTONOMY.html
  4. National Cancer Institute. (2010). Communication in cancer care–factors affecting communication: Age, race, ethnicity and communication. WebMD. Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/ncicdr0000618162-factors-affecting-communication

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Russell Searight
    • 1
  • Scott F. Perkins
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLake Superior State UniversitySault Sainte MarieUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWestern Kentucky UniversityBowling GreenUSA