Uses and abuses of the body in the postmodern era
This paper will focus on two controversial cases relating to the [mis]use of the notion of autonomy in situations of life and death. While in one case the patient’s will to die was not respected, in the other there was no attempt to save the life of the individual. I have chosen to put these two specific cases in parallel for the fact that in both instances the presence of some kind of mental impairment is not given at all. Yet, in both situations there is substantial reference to some type of temporary competence -as this is the key element that, allegedly, should function as decisive to assess the moral and legal justification behind the decision to enforce -or not- medical treatment upon the protagonists of these two very sad stories. Following on from the objective of this paper thus, the contraposition of these two cases will provide us with a vivid image of the practical implications of using the notion of autonomy (here presented under the form of a more psychiatric-oriented term: competence) in an inconsistent manner within the Western world (US and EU). Raising many doubts over its appropriateness.
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