Relational autonomy and the clinical relationship in dementia care

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The clinical relationship (or doctor-patient relationship) has been underexplored in dementia care. This is in part due to the way that the clinical relationship has been articulated and understood in bioethics. Robert Veatch’s social contract model is representative of a standard view of the clinical relationship in bioethics. But dementia presents formidable challenges to the standard clinical relationship, including ambiguity about when the clinical relationship begins, how it weathers changes in narrative identity of patients with dementia, and how the intimate involvement of family fits alongside a paradigmatically dyadic relationship. Drawing on work in recent feminist theory, a critique is offered of the standard clinical relationship in bioethics as underwritten by an individualistic conception of autonomy. An alternative view of the clinical relationship in dementia, one that embraces a relational account of autonomy, is put forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-288
Number of pages12
JournalTheoretical Medicine and Bioethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Autonomy
  • Caregivers
  • Dementia
  • Doctor-patient relationship
  • Family

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects


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