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Dignity in healthcare: a critical exploration using feminism and theories of recognition
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-08, 18:07 authored by Kay Aranda, Andrea Jones
Growing concerns over undignified health-care has meant the concept of dignity is currently much discussed in the British National Health Service. This has led to a number of policies attempting to reinstate dignity as a core ethical value governing nursing practice and health-care provision. Yet these initiatives continue to draw upon a concept of dignity which remains reliant upon a depoliticised, ahistorical and decontexualised subject. In this paper, we argue the need to revise the dignity debate through the lens of feminism and theories of recognition. Postmodern feminist theories provide major challenges to what remain dominant liberal approaches as they pay attention to the contingent, reflexive, and affective aspects of care work. Theories of recognition provide a further critical resource for understanding how moral obligations and responsibilities towards others and our public and private responses to difference arise. This re-situates dignity as a highly contested and politicised concept involving complex moral deliberations and diverse political claims of recognition. The dignity debate is thus moved beyond simplistic rational injunctions to care, or to care more, and towards critical discussions of complex politicised, moral practices infused with power that involve the recognition of difference in health-care.
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