On the Call for a Feminist Notion of Autonomy in Biomedical Ethics

Jennifer Parks

Abstract

In this thesis I argue that the received view of autonomy is insufficient for both biomedical ethics and feminist theory. I begin with an examination of the received view of autonomy; I then indicate the way in which this view of autonomy has been applied to health care ethics. A feminist relational approach to autonomy is explored: I argue that such an approach has many strengths in that it gives us a more accurate picture of the self-in-relationships and that it recognizes many social and structural conditions that may impede an individual's attempts to be autonomous.

This feminist relational approach to autonomy, once defined, is applied to the medical/social practices of cosmetic surgery and contract motherhood. I do this to show the practical implications of this contextual approach to autonomy.