John Libbey Eurotext

Gériatrie et Psychologie Neuropsychiatrie du Vieillissement


Autonomy and dementia Part II: Autonomy and representation: a possible combination? Volume 9, issue 2, Mai 2011

Faculté de sciences économiques, sociales et de gestion, FUNDP, Namur, Belgique

This paper, based on a critical review of the medico-social literature, questions the representation of patients with dementia in relation to the autonomy perspectives presented in a previous article. In the canonical perspective of autonomy (defined as a rational decision-making by a stand alone self), the surrogate is the spokeperson of the subject's wills when he was competent because he knows these wills through advance directives or assuming them via substituted judgment. Best patient's interest is then depreciated because it is focused on the present incompetent self. In the relational perspective, where autonomy is constructed through a dialogue with others, the surrogate is the present interlocutor, making the decisions with the patient and care-givers in a way varying with the disease process. He represents the subject with dementia as he was before the disease but also as he has become. Therefore, there is a continuum between autonomy and representation. Autonomy and well being are both the surrogate aims. The relational perspective allows care continuity of patients with dementia even when considered as incompetent. It offers a more balanced perspective on the patient autonomy since it is embedded in all others, and opens a richer view on what good life is, untill the end of dementia.