Due Date: Wednesday 19-May-2021 at 11:59:59 PM   Maximum Points: 5.0 , especially in the context of bioethics in the United States, have often been critiqued for raising the principle of autonomy to the highest place, such that it trumps all other principles or values. : Hoehner, P. (2020). : An Introduction to Christian Values and Decision Making in Health Care.


Bioethics, as a field of study, has gained significant attention in recent years. It encompasses the examination of ethical issues arising in the field of healthcare and medical research. One of the key principles that have come under scrutiny in the context of bioethics, particularly in the United States, is the principle of autonomy.

Autonomy, in the bioethical context, refers to an individual’s ability to make decisions regarding their own healthcare, free from coercion or undue influence. It places the individual as the central figure in decision-making, giving them the right to self-determination and control over their own body. This principle is often seen as a cornerstone of bioethical decision-making and is enshrined in legal frameworks such as informed consent.

Critiques of Autonomy in Bioethics

However, the principle of autonomy has been subject to criticism for its potential to overshadow other important ethical principles or values. Some argue that the emphasis on individual autonomy in bioethics has led to a reductionist perspective that neglects the broader societal and communal aspects of healthcare decision-making.

One of the primary critiques of autonomy in bioethics is that it promotes an overly individualistic approach to healthcare decision-making. Critics argue that this focus on individual autonomy fails to acknowledge the interconnectedness and interdependence of individuals within society. Healthcare decisions, they argue, should take into account the impact on others and the collective well-being of society as a whole.

Another concern is that an excessive emphasis on autonomy can lead to a disregard for the values of vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, or those with cognitive impairments. In these cases, relying solely on individual autonomy may not be sufficient to promote the best interests of these individuals. There is a need to consider the role of surrogate decision-makers or guardians in making decisions that are in the best interests of those who may lack decisional capacity.

Furthermore, critics argue that prioritizing autonomy can often lead to ethical dilemmas, particularly when individual autonomy conflicts with other important values, such as beneficence (acting in the best interest of the patient) or justice (fair distribution of healthcare resources). In some cases, an individual’s autonomous decision may go against medical advice or may lead to harm to oneself or others. Balancing the principle of autonomy with other ethical considerations becomes crucial in such situations.

The Role of Christian Values

Christian values and ethics also play a significant role in shaping the discourse around autonomy in bioethics. Christianity places a strong emphasis on the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, which can be seen as aligning with the principle of autonomy. However, Christian ethics also emphasize the importance of compassion, care for the vulnerable, and the pursuit of common good.

The Christian perspective on autonomy in bioethics seeks to strike a balance between individual autonomy and the responsibility to consider the well-being of others. For example, while respecting an individual’s autonomy in making healthcare decisions, Christian ethics call for a consideration of the effects of those decisions on the broader community and the ethical implications of choices made.

In this context, Christian bioethics seeks to integrate the principles of autonomy, beneficence, and justice, along with other Christian values, in order to arrive at ethically sound decisions. It recognizes the inherent worth and freedom of individuals while also recognizing the interconnectedness and interdependence of human beings.


While the principle of autonomy in bioethics has been critiqued for its potential to overshadow other ethical principles or values, it remains an important guiding principle in healthcare decision-making. However, it is crucial to navigate the tension between individual autonomy and the broader societal implications of healthcare choices. Integrating Christian values and ethics can provide a framework for addressing these tensions and promoting ethical decision-making that considers both individual autonomy and the well-being of the community.

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