In chapter three of Saving Truth by Abdu Murray, the concept of autonomy versus freedom debuts itself. Murray clearly defines his stance on the current climate of autonomy, an idea that has furtively replaced freedom, in his opinion. Although Murray has made some valid points concerning the mistaken concepts of autonomy and freedom, I do believe autonomy, and the right for humans to make their own informed decisions is crucial to a free society.
In order to properly address the concept of autonomy, it is important to develop a strong basis of what exactly autonomy is, and what it means to society. On page 49 in Saving Truth, Murray breaks down autonomy into its root words of Greek origin; “autos, meaning “self,” and the second is nomos, meaning “law” (2018). Furthermore, autonomy is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the quality or state of being self-governing,” and “self-directing freedom and especially moral independence.” Synonyms include accord, free will, choice, volition, and self-determination. With this, I disagree with Murray when he implies “our ability to think and act clearly and wisely” is seemingly thrown out when one is autonomous (2018). Autonomy affords us the right to choose and elect government officials, and autonomy allows medical patients to make rational decisions regarding their healthcare and treatment.
When researching autonomy, the topic of medical ethics and patient autonomy resurfaced on multiple occasions. Autonomy is found on rational decision-making, with reasoning and knowledge and understanding playing a crucial role in one being autonomous (Coggon & Miola 2011). Autonomy presents itself in healthcare through the concept of informed consent. A patient must be informed of all risks, benefits and alternatives before making a competent decision. This concept is described briefly by Coggon and Miola in the case Chester v. Afshar, in which Chester argued (successfully) that she was not given substantial information by her surgeon to make an informed decision (2011). Patient autonomy centers around the patient being competent enough to make decisions regarding their healthcare.
Autonomy may also play a role in education, as learners are permitted the opportunity to take charge of their own education (Smith 2008). Addressed again by Smith is the competency of learners to take charge of their education, not just the ability. Smith describes a class in which students were able to learn a foreign language free from instructor direction. He points out that participates “initially – did not have the full capacity (competency) to take charge of decision-making” (2008). “Decision-making,” in this case, refers to objectives, materials, syllabus, location, time and pace, and evaluation procedures (Smith 2008). Smith mentions distance-learning as a possible form of autonomy, as learning is, essentially, in the hands of the student.
Humans have been created by God and given the concept of free will. Unlike other animals, humans are not strictly instinctual, in that we are able to make our own choices. We are the branches on God’s vine (John 15:5), and we are not forced to follow the Lord or listen to His word, but we are given the free will to do so. We are able to determine our future (to an extent), by choosing to listen to His word.
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