In medical decision-making, both the patient and healthcare provider must be well aware of the importance of the autonomy principle. Indeed, the principle allows a patient to play a critical role in determining their own treatment plan based on credible information received from the hospital staff. The concepts of informed consent and truth-telling can be highlighted in the case of medical decision-making. In that way, the healthcare worker must inform their patient of the whole set of information available and receive clear consent to act on their proposed medical advice or seek alternative options.
A patient’s assertion of their rights in self-determination is a consequence of the previously discussed autonomy principle. Moreover, the provided example of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease deciding on their medical treatment raises an important ethical question. According to Poppe et al., insufficient training of medical staff negatively affects the assessment of the decision-making capacity of patients with dementia (Poppe et al., 2020). Furthermore, it may be difficult to determine the right state of the patient or the suitable situation to allow for more autonomy in regard to treatment decision-making. An efficient strategy is still being developed to improve both consent and autonomy rights without jeopardizing one’s health.
The ethical conflict example refers back to the idea that the current healthcare system needs to be improved in terms of its patients’ rights regulation. In that way, a patient diagnosed with dementia might experience low chances of feeling heard and respected due to their family and friends making the most important decisions for them. A skilled healthcare professional can still look after the patient without completely limiting their freedom and right to choose. Of course, the nature of the dementia condition still requires maximum effort from the hospital staff and the patient’s family.
Poppe, C., Elger, B. S., Wangmo, T., & Trachsel, M. (2020). Evaluation of decision-making capacity in patients with dementia: challenges and recommendations from a secondary analysis of qualitative interviews. BMC Medical Ethics, 21(1), 1-8.