Autonomy (Greek: Auto-Nomos – nomos meaning “law”: one who gives oneself his own law) means freedom from external authority. Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political, and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts it refers to the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, uncoerced decision.

In moral and political philosophy, autonomy is often used as the basis for determining moral responsibility for one’s actions. One of best known philosophical theories of autonomy was developed by Kant. In medicine, respect for the autonomy of patients is considered obligatory for doctors and other health-care professionals. Politically, it is also used to refer to the self-governing of a people.

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