Just about everyone has heard of the medical ethics principle of respect for patient autonomy. And that’s the problem. Autonomy’s “name recognition,” as it were, has led to a superficial understanding of the principle and the informed consent procedures designed to put the principle into practice in patient-physician and patient-researcher encounters. This month’s authors call up and examine other ethical values and virtues that supplement respect for patient autonomy in providing adequate protection for patients and research subjects.
Respecting another’s religious beliefs does not compel us to accept that those beliefs have been examined and are autonomously espoused. We come to hold beliefs in a multitude of ways, not all of which are fully informed and uncoerced.