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HCC Philosophy Autonomy in Teens Essay

The Assignment: For this paper, you should choose a class of individuals who fall into the category of limited, compromised, or questionable autonomy, such as: teenagers, people who are beginning to develop dementia, substance over-users, individuals with mental disabilities, individuals with mental illness, and people who lack the education or language comprehension to fully understand the choices they face (this list is not exhaustive).

Your paper should offer a moral argument for the proper treatment of these individuals, either from the perspective of a health care provider or a benevolent advocate of some kind (loved one, social worker, government policy maker, etc.).

           Be sure to include the following items in your paper:

  • A clear, detailed discussion of the issue of autonomy. What is it? How can we tell if an individual has it? What are some particular difficulties involved in cases of compromised autonomy?
  • How should competing and sometimes conflicting values be balanced with regard to this class of individuals (values you might discuss include: freedom, benevolence, respect for diverse lifestyle choices, etc.)
  • What moral principles are you employing in your argument for the morally appropriate treatment of such individuals? Why are these principles appropriate?
  • Explain why your argument for the treatment of this class of people is preferable (from a moral standpoint) to another approach advocated by rational, benevolent individuals.

Autonomy and beneficence are two of the foundational principles of bioethics – yet they so often come into conflict. This week, our in depth moral examination looks into clinical care of patients with dementia. To do so, we must think deeply about autonomy – why do we value it, and does it make sense to say we should honor it in an individual who no longer has the ability to make autonomous decisions? Here are some key moral concepts to consider as you study.

  • precedent autonomy
  • contemporary autonomy
  • evidential view of autonomy
  • integrity view of autonomy
  • critical interests
  • experiential interests
  • personal identity


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