Autonomy and Chronic Impairment

Dissertation, The University of Tennessee (2000)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This dissertation challenges the conception of autonomy that dominates bioethics and health care and defends a feminist relational conception of autonomy as an alternative. The work proceeds in four major steps. First, I analyze the conception of autonomy put forth by Tom Beauchamp and James Childress that dominates bioethics and health care. While noting the value of autonomy, I show significant limitations of B&C's view. ;Second, I explore the experience of autonomy for people with chronic impairment. I discover that any acceptable conception of autonomy will account for relational features of self-identity and self-governance. To the extent that autonomous people are "independent", I discover that they have a "situated-independence". That is, their independence is understood in terms of particular and extensive sorts of interconnections and interdependencies with the body, others, and the world. In this scenario, autonomy becomes a social project. ;Third, I present and assess Hardwig's conception of autonomy as the responsible use of freedom. This view is responsive to some of the relational features of self-identity and self-governance already shown to be important. Yet I show that this view has troubling implications. ;Fourth, I advance a feminist conception of relational autonomy, grounded on a notion of relational selves that extends the self from human consciousness to body, others, and the structures of the world. I show that relational autonomy emerges from a cluster of knowledge, skills, personal attributes and social conditions yielding a family resemblance of conditions, at least within cultural groups, although any instance of relational autonomy will have different dynamic configurations. My procedural view remains neutral about the actual content of people's desires, values, beliefs and emotional attitudes. I argue that a conception of relational autonomy requires dropping the language of "respect for" autonomy in favor of "promoting and sustaining" relational autonomy. This view of autonomy retains the value of both B&C's and Hardwig's conceptions of autonomy and avoids their major problem. Despite some problems of its own that may limit its application in practice, I maintain that a conception of relational autonomy is preferable to those advanced by B&C and Hardwig



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,347

External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles


Added to PP


6 months

Historical graph of downloads

Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references