Patient autonomy in physical restraint


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Abstract

Despite initiatives to raise the awareness of patient autonomy among healthcare providers, the use of physical restraints on frail or confused older patients continues to be a common practice in many healthcare settings. This paper examines the relationship between patient autonomy and the use of physical restraints by drawing on the literature contradicting its efficacy and the assumption that its use is necessary to protect the welfare of patients. It argues that the paternalistic use of physical restraints without patient's informed consent is morally unjustified and is an unequivocal violation of their autonomy. The duty to respect individual autonomy should be extended to a duty to respect the autonomy of older people who are being restrained. Only in this way can their human dignity and quality of life be enhanced.

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