Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Volume 7, Number 4 (December 2010)
Guest Editor: Claire Hooker
Cameron Stewart and Bernadette Richards
Annie Parsons and Claire Hooker
Critiques of the dehumanising aspects of contemporary medical practice have generated increasing interest in the ways in which health care can foster a holistic sense of wellbeing. We examine the relationship between two areas of this humanistic endeavour: narrative and dignity. This paper makes two simple arguments that are intuitive but have not yet been explored in detail: that narrative competence of carers is required for maintaining or recreating dignity, and that dignity promotion in health care practice is primarily narrative in form. The multiple meanings that dignity has in a person’s life are what give the concept power and can only be captured by narrative. This has implications for health care practice where narrative work will be increasingly required to support patient dignity in under-resourced and over-subscribed health care systems.
Feticide, the practice of terminating the life of an otherwise viable fetus in utero, has become an increasingly common practice in obstetric centres around the globe, a concomitant of antenatal screening technologies. This paper examines this expanding practice in light of the concept of human dignity. Although it is assumed from the outset that even viable human fetuses are not persons and as such do not enjoy full membership in the moral community, it is argued that the fact that these are nevertheless human fetuses affords them prima facie moral status. Thus even those who accept a liberal position with regard to therapeutic abortion, should be concerned about these more recent developments. Indeed, how we treat viable human fetuses has implications for our prospective treatment of other human non-persons and could undermine the common human dignity we all share.
Nora Jacobson and Diego S. Silva
The concept of dignity has occasioned a robust conversation in recent healthcare scholarship. When viewed as a whole, research on dignity in healthcare has engaged each of the four bioethical principles popularized by Beauchamp and Childress, but has paid the least attention to beneficence. In this paper, we look at dignity and beneficence. We focus on the dignity promotion component of a model of dignity derived from a grounded theory study. After describing the study and presenting a précis of the resulting model, we review the principle of beneficence and look at the ways in which the notion of dignity promotion can be used to complement our understanding of this principle. Specifically, we explore what we can learn from dignity promotion about the relational nature of beneficence in healthcare and how dignity promotion can be marshaled to help address the epistemological quandary of soft paternalism.
Miriam Taylor Gomez
Cynthia Forlini and Eric Racine