Brian Clark's drama, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, explores the difficulties of applying the principle of respect for autonomy to real-life circumstances. In the play a permanently disabled patient, who wishes to be allowed to die, raises moral questions about the adequacy of the autonomous agent, respect for the autonomy of others, the authority of the law, the allocation of society's resources, and the intrinsic value of human life. After a brief review of the story and definition of respect for autonomy, this paper cites passages from the play that dramatize the tension between respect for autonomy and these other moral concerns. There follows a review of relevant commentary from the classicists Kant and Mill and the modernists Childress and Gillon. The study concludes that although classical and contemporary philosophers have clarified and elaborated upon the relationship between ethical principles, they have not provided definitive guidelines.
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