Pre-Authorization: A Novel Decision-Making Heuristic That May Promote Autonomy

American Journal of Bioethics 16 (5):27-29 (2016)
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In this commentary on an article by Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby (AJOB 16:5-15, 2016), we discuss how external influences on decisions affect personal autonomy. Specifically, we introduce the idea of “pre-authorization” as an evaluative stance by which an individual gives a certain agent preferential access to influencing her decision-making processes. Influences arising from pre-authorized agents may then be seen as promoting, rather than infringing upon, autonomy. While the idea that an external influence can be autonomy-promoting may be inconsistent with individualistic conceptions of autonomy, it aligns well with more relational conceptions that recognize the social milieu in which decisions are made. We suggest that pre-authorization provides a framework for thinking about how relational accounts of autonomy might work mechanistically.



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Author Profiles

Peter B. Reiner
University of British Columbia
Fay Niker
University of Stirling