Law autonomy and advance directives

Willmott, Lindy, White, Benjamin P., & Mathews, Benjamin P. (2010) Law autonomy and advance directives. Journal of Law and Medicine, 18, pp. 366-389.


The principle of autonomy underpins legal regulation of advance directives that refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. The primacy of autonomy in this domain is recognised expressly in the case law, through judicial pronouncement, and implicitly in most Australian jurisdictions, through enactment into statute of the right to make an advance directive. This article seeks to justify autonomy as an appropriate principle for regulating advance directives and relies on three arguments: the necessity of autonomy in a liberal democracy; the primacy of autonomy in medical ethics discourse; and the uncontested importance of autonomy in the law on contemporaneous refusal of medical treatment. This article also responds to key criticisms that autonomy is not an appropriate organising principle to underpin legal regulation of advance directives.

Impact and interest:

2 citations in Scopus
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ID Code: 39174
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: medical treatment, advance directive, autonomy, self determination, withholding and withdrawing treatment
ISSN: 1320-159X
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > OTHER LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (189900) > Law and Legal Studies not elsewhere classified (189999)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia
Deposited On: 14 Dec 2010 04:34
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2015 10:49

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