In sickness and in dignity: A philosophical account of the meaning of dignity in health care

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The meaning of dignity in health care has been primarily explored using interviews and surveys with various patient groups, as well as with health care practitioners. Philosophical analysis of dignity is largely avoided, as the existing philosophical literature is complex, multifaceted and of unclear relevance to health care settings. The aim of this paper is to develop a straightforward philosophical concept of dignity which is then applied to existing qualitative research. In health care settings, a patient has dignity when he or she is able to live in accordance with his or her standards and values. Accordingly, health care practitioners respect a patient's dignity when they refrain from transgressing the patient's standards and values, or refrain from forcing the patient to transgress his or her standards and values. This concept is shown to explain and illuminate most of the key qualitative findings. It therefore provides a more coherent and synthesised concept of dignity in health care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-141
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Dignity
  • Philosophical analysis
  • Standards and values
  • The Dignity Model

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