Reflections on the function of dignity in the context of caring for old people

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 32 (5):483 – 494 (2007)
Abstract
This article accepts the proposition that old people want to be treated with dignity and that statements about dignity point to ethical duties that, if not independent of rights, at least enhance rights in ethically important ways. In contexts of policy and law, dignity can certainly have a substantive as well as rhetorical function. However, the article questions whether the concept of dignity can provide practical guidance for choosing among alternative approaches to the care of old people. The article explores the paradoxical relationship between the apparent lack of specific content in many conceptions of dignity and the broad utility that dignity appears to have as a concept expressive of shared social understandings about the status of old people
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