An Intercultural Nursing Perspective on Autonomy
Nursing Ethics 2004 January; 11(1): 28-41
This article is based on an empirical study regarding ethical challenges in intercultural nursing. The focus is on autonomy and disclosure. Autonomy is a human capacity that has become an important ethical principle in nursing. Although the relationship between autonomy and patients' possibly harmful choices is discussed, the focus is on 'forced' autonomy. Nurses seem to equate respect with autonomy; it seems to be hard to cope with the fact that there are patients who voluntarily undergo treatment but who actively participate neither in the treatment offered nor in making choices regarding that treatment. Nurses' demand for patients to be autonomous may in some cases jeopardize the respect, integrity and human worth that the ethical principle of autonomy is meant to ensure. Even though respect for a person's autonomy is also respect for the person, one's respect for the person in question should not depend on his or her capacity or aptitude to act autonomously. Is autonomy necessarily a universal ethical principle? This article negates this question and, through the issues of culture, individualism versus collectivism, first- and second-order autonomy, communication and the use of family interpreters, and respect, an attempt is made to explain why.
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