The ethics of care: Role obligations and moderate partiality in health care

Nursing Ethics 18 (2):192-200 (2011)
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This article contends that an ethics of care has a particular moral ontology that makes it suitable to argue for the normative significance of relational responsibilities within professional health care. This ontology is relational. It means that moral choices always have to account for the web of relationships, the relational networks and responsibilities that are an essential part of particular moral circumstances. Given this ontology, the article investigates the conditions for health care professionals to be partial and to act on the basis of particular responsibilities to their patients. We will argue that priorities could be partial in three ways: first, because there may be exceptional circumstances that allow for giving priority to one patient over another; second, because the integrity of the patient and a health care worker may be connected in special ways; and, finally, even if impartiality is essential, the institutional basis of health care must always give ample space for an ethically qualified individual and personal care for patients. Even if difficult priorities may be necessary, the conditions of institutional health care should always seek to create the prerequisites for nurses and doctors to administer proper care



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