Law, Autonomy and Advance Directives
Journal of Law and Medicine, 18, pp. 366-389, 2010
Posted: 10 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2010
The principle of autonomy underpins legal regulation of advance directives that refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. The primacy of autonomy in this domain is recognised expressly in the case law, through judicial pronouncement, and implicitly in most Australian jurisdictions, through enactment into statute of the right to make an advance directive. This article seeks to justify autonomy as an appropriate principle for regulating advance directives and relies on three arguments: the necessity of autonomy in a liberal democracy; the primacy of autonomy in medical ethics discourse; and the uncontested importance of autonomy in the law on contemporaneous refusal of medical treatment. This article also responds to key criticisms that autonomy is not an appropriate organising principle to underpin legal regulation of advance directives.
Keywords: medical treatment, advance directive, autonomy, self determination, withholding and withdrawing treatment
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation