Health services internationally struggle to ensure health care is "person-centered" (or similar). In part, this is because there are many interpretations of "person-centered care" (and near synonyms), some of which seem unrealistic for some patients or situations and obscure the intrinsic value of patients' experiences of health care delivery. The general concern behind calls for person-centered care is an ethical one: Patients should be "treated as persons." We made novel use of insights from the capabilities approach to characterize person-centered care as care that recognizes and cultivates the capabilities associated with the concept of persons. This characterization unifies key features from previous characterisations and can render person-centered care applicable to diverse patients and situations. By tying person-centered care to intrinsically valuable capability outcomes, it incorporates a requirement for responsiveness to individuals and explains why person-centered care is required independently of any contribution it may make to health gain.