The Role of Caring in a Theory of Nursing Ethics

Hypatia 4 (2):88 - 103 (1989)
The development of nursing ethics as a field of inquiry has largely relied on theories of medical ethics that use autonomy, beneficence, and/or justice as foundational ethical principles. Such theories espouse a masculine approach to moral decision-making and ethical analysis. This paper challenges the presumption of medical ethics and its associated system of moral justification as an appropriate model for nursing ethics. It argues that the value foundations of nursing ethics are located within the existential phenomenon of human caring within the nurse/patient relationship instead of in models of patient good or rights-based notions of autonomy as articulated in prominent theories of medical ethics. Models of caring are analyzed and a moral-point-of-view (MPV) theory with caring as a fundamental value is proposed for the development of a theory of nursing ethics. This type of theory is supportive to feminist medical ethics because it focuses on the subscription to, and not merely the acceptance of, a particular view of morality.
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