Autonomy as the most important biomedical ethics principle

The most important biomedical ethics principle

Similar to how the U.S. has placed the respect for autonomy as the highest of the four principles, I too rank autonomy as the most important biomedical ethics principle. I believe that first and foremost, what happens to the body of an individual is the decision of that individual, assuming that those decisions do not cause harm to anyone else.

I rank nonmaleficence as my second most important principle of ethics because I don’t believe anyone should intentionally cause harm to others.

The ranking of the last two principles, for me, is slightly less clear. Beneficence and justice are tied in third. When I see the term “prevent” as in prevent harm, I want to rank beneficence higher on my list, but I need further consideration. In consideration of justice, the fair distribution of benefits is of extreme importance and is no small issue. It is of huge importance, but it is not what I think of when I initially think of ethics.

In relation to the Christian biblical narrative, I believe the order of importance for the principles would be: beneficence, justice, nonmaleficence, and respect for autonomy. I believe this would be the order because in the beginning, God provided benefits that were balanced and distributed fairly to all (beneficence and justice). This resulted in Shalom, a peaceful and orderly state. Nonmaleficence I believe would be ranked third because we were (are) not to cause harm to others. Finally, I believe respect for autonomy would be last in the Christian biblical narrative because all living things had what they needed, and they believed and trusted in God to provide all their needs.

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