Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics

pp 1-12

Date: Latest Version

Respect for Autonomy

  • Paweł ŁukówAffiliated withInstitute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw Email author 
  • , Joanna RóżyńskaAffiliated withInstitute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw


This entry analyzes the concept of autonomy and the content and scope of the principle of respect for autonomy in contemporary global bioethics. The first section presents historical and intellectual roots of the idea of autonomy. The second section provides basic conceptual clarifications: distinction between autonomy as capacity and autonomy as the right to self-determination, and evolution from autonomy of persons to autonomy of decisions and actions. The third and central section of the entry focuses on the meaning and role of the principle of respect for autonomy in the context of modern medical clinical practice and research. First, conditions for autonomous choices and actions are discussed. Second, the notion of respect as an action-guiding attitude is explained. Subsequently, the normative consequences of the principle of respect for autonomy for the patient-physician and the subject-researcher relationships are presented. Third, the question of limits of the principle of respect for autonomy is addressed in the context of common types of conflicts between the principle and other moral principles and values. Finally, critiques of the emphasis on the value of autonomy in contemporary moral and political philosophical in general and in bioethics in particular are mentioned.


Autonomy Individual liberty Informed consent Privacy Limits of autonomy Critiques of autonomy