Response to “Reassessing the Reliability of Advance
Directives” by Thomas May (CQ Vol. 6, No. 5)
(Advance Directives and Voluntary Slavery)
Christopher Tollefsen a1 a1 Department of Philosophy at the University of
South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
In a recent article Thomas May has argued that
the use of advance directives (ADs) to respect a no longer
competent patient's autonomy is a failed strategy.
Respect for patient autonomy is clearly one of the guiding
moral principles of modern medicine, and its importance
is reflected in medical emphasis on informed consent.
Prima facie, at least, ADs seem likewise to respect patient
autonomy by allowing patients to make decisions about treatment
in advance of situations in which the patient may no longer
be able to specify the form of treatment desired. So a
claim that ADs do not extend patient autonomy to these
situations of diminished competence represents a serious
criticism of our understanding not only of advance directives,
but of autonomy as well.