Analyzing dignity: a perspective from the ethics of care

Med Health Care Philos. 2013 Nov;16(4):945-52. doi: 10.1007/s11019-012-9427-3.


The concept of dignity is notoriously vague. In this paper it is argued that the reason for this is that there are three versions of dignity that are often confused. First we will take a short look at the history of the concept of dignity in order to demonstrate how already from Roman Antiquity two versions of dignity can be distinguished. Subsequently, the third version will be introduced and it will be argued that although the three versions of dignity hang together, they should also be clearly distinguished in order to avoid confusion. The reason for distinguishing the three versions is because all three of them are only partially effective. This will be demonstrated by taking the discussion about voluntary 'dying with dignity' as an example. Inspired by both Paul Ricoeur's concept of ethics and the ethics of care a proposition will be done as to how the three versions of dignity may sustain each other and help achieve what neither one of the versions can do on its own.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics
  • Christianity
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethics*
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Personhood*