Dignity is a fundamental concept, but its meaning is not clear. This paper attempts to clarify the term by analysing and reconnecting two meanings of dignity: humanitas and dignitas. Humanitas refers to citizen values that protect individuals as equal to one another. Dignitas refers to aesthetic values embedded in genres of sociality that relate to differences between people. The paper explores these values by way of an empirical ethical analysis of practices of washing psychiatric patients in nursing care. Nurses legitimate the washing of reluctant patients with reference to dignity. The analysis shows the intertwinement of humanitas and dignitas that gives dignity its fundamental meaning.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.