Autonomy and Metacognition : A Healthcare Perspective

Detta är en avhandling från Media-Tryck

Sammanfattning: Part I of the dissertation examines the cognitive aspects of autonomy. The central question concerns what kind of cognitive capacity autonomy is. It will be argued that the concept of autonomy is best understood in terms of a metacognitive capacity of the individual. It is argued that metacognition has two components: procedural reflexivity and metarepresentation. Metarepresentation in turn can be divided into inferential reflexivity and other-attributiveness. These two components are essential for autonomy. Particular emphasis is put on procedural reflexivity. Further, since the essential function of metacognition is control, it is argued that the concept of autonomy, understood as a metacognitive capacity, can be interpreted in terms of control. Issues arising from empirical data from neuroscience on functional, as well as impaired, metacognition, and on undermined autonomy, are dealt with. It is argued that autonomy cannot be determined with respect to subjective conditions. Neurological impairments, like Anton’s Syndrome, dementia, and thought insertion in schizophrenia, are put forward in support of this claim. To determine autonomy we require external conditions. In order to determine whether an individual is autonomous, both the metacognitive status of the individual and the external setting must be considered, since they are in interplay and consequently influence each other. In Part II, the analysis put forward in Part I is applied to Swedish healthcare. It is argued that the distinction between autonomy as a right and as a capacity must be explicit in order to understand what autonomy means and to deal with it effectively in healthcare practice. A discussion about whether or not the patient’s right to autonomy sometimes tends to be over-emphasized in healthcare is put forward. Special emphasis is placed on psychitaric issues such as deinstitutionalization and participation. Following the closure of the mental hospitals, deinstitutionalization and community-based care have become central topics in psychiatry. At the same time, the implementation of such care can be demanding for patients suffering from a persistent mental disorder. In part II it is also suggested that the metacognitive account of the concept of autonomy might help clarify the criteria governing coercive care. Finally, some suggestions concerning developments and improvements in Swedish healthcare, especially in psychiatry, where the concept of autonomy is important but problematic, are put forward.