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Hardcover | Out of Print | 215 pp. | 6 x 9 in | March 2002 | ISBN: 9780262134088
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Self-Trust and Reproductive Autonomy


The power of new medical technologies, the cultural authority of physicians, and the gendered power dynamics of many patient-physician relationships can all inhibit women's reproductive freedom. Often these factors interfere with women's ability to trust themselves to choose and act in ways that are consistent with their own goals and values. In this book Carolyn McLeod introduces to the reproductive ethics literature the idea that in reproductive health care women's self-trust can be undermined in ways that threaten their autonomy. Understanding the importance of self-trust for autonomy, McLeod argues, is crucial to understanding the limits on women's reproductive freedom.

McLeod brings feminist insights in philosophical moral psychology to reproductive ethics, and to health-care ethics more broadly. She identifies the social environments in which self-trust is formed and encouraged. She also shows how women's experiences of reproductive health care can enrich our understanding of self-trust and autonomy as philosophical concepts. The book's theoretical components are grounded in women's concrete experiences. The cases discussed, which involve miscarriage, infertility treatment, and prenatal diagnosis, show that what many women feel toward themselves in reproductive contexts is analogous to what we feel toward others when we trust or distrust them.

McLeod also discusses what health-care providers can do to minimize the barriers to women's self-trust in reproductive health care, and why they have a duty to do so as part of their larger duty to respect patient autonomy.

About the Author

Carolyn McLeod is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario.


“I enjoyed this book for its elegant and systematic argumentation, sensitively presented case studies, and treatment of philosophical subtleties. Self-Trust and Reproductive Autonomy is highly original and very readable.”
Elisabeth Boetzkes, Department of Philosophy and Women's Studies Programme, McMaster University
“All too rarely does a bioethicist manage not only to develop a new theoretical concept but also to apply it successfully in the realm of health care. Carolyn McLeod provides a brilliant feminist analysis of the novel concept of self-trust and its relationship to women's sense of reproductive autonomy. McLeod's book will help health care practitioners in the field of obstetrics to work with pregnant women in a manner that leaves women in confident charge of their bodies. Moreover, McLeod's book will help the general reader understand important moral issues surrounding miscarriage, infertility treatment, and prenatal diagnosis.”
Rosemarie Tong, Department of Philosophy and Center for Professional and Applied Ethics, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
“This book makes an impressive and significant contribution to the philosophical literatures on trust and autonomy. It also shows why bioethicists and health care practitioners must develop a more complex understanding of autonomy in order to promote the autonomy of patients who are subject to oppressive social conditions.”
Catriona MacKenzie, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
“McLeod's exploration of the connection between self-trust and autonomy in the context of reproductive choice makes an important contribution to the feminist project of reconceiving autonomy as relational. Because it is richly grounded in real-life case studies, the book has much to offer the practitioner as well as the theorist.”
Karen Jones, Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne
“A significant advance in philosophical thinking about moral autonomy that's both solidly grounded theoretically and practically relevant too. Written with admirable clarity, this work should be a pleasure both to learn from and teach.”
Anne Donchin, Elismerita Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University, Indianapolis