The impact of embodiment on autonomy
Abstract The way bodies are perceived has not received much attention in ethical discourse. It has always been accepted that one of the fundamental principles in evaluating ethical dilemmas in bio ethics is the respect for autonomy. This notion has dominated medical ethics for several decades. Medical ethicists however have quite frankly forgotten about the perception of bodies. In this post modern era, ethicists and medical practitioners are challenging and considering in what ways the impact of disease has on an individuals “autonomous decision making”. This discourse considers current and historical thoughts on autonomy and challenges its relevance in bioethics today. Autonomy is viewed from a genuine and an ascriptional perspective. By reviewing various arguments it is concluded that autonomy is still an important, but not an absolute, consideration in bioethics. Embodiment is discussed from a phenomenological perspective with the various notions of embodiment reviewed and evaluated. The impact that various states of embodiment have, from its normal physiological state that includes different ages, racial makeup and gender, to diseased states, on autonomy is reflected and discussed. This impact, it is argued, questions the role that autonomy plays in decision making. Emphasis is placed on respect for embodiment to seek a resolution to the impasse presented by certain ethical dilemmas where the respect for autonomy is found to be flawed.