Taking care of one's own: Justice and family caregiving

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 23 (2):117-133 (2002)
This paper asks whether adult children have aduty of justice to act as caregivers for theirfrail, elderly parents. I begin (Sections I.and II.) by locating the historical reasons whyrelationships within families were not thoughtto raise issues of justice. I argue that thesereasons are misguided. The paper next presentsspecific examples showing the relevance ofjustice to family relationships. I point outthat in the United States today, the burden ofcaregiving for dependent parents fallsdisproportionately on women (Sections III. andIV.). The paper goes on to use Rawls''theoretical tool of the veil of ignorance toargue that caring for parents should not belinked to a person''s sex and more generally,that there is no duty of justice to assume therole of caregiver for dependent parents(Sections V.). Although justice does notprovide the moral foundations for parent care,I show that it nonetheless places importantlimits on the instinct to care. I concludethat the voice of justice should be audible,and is intrinsically present, withinfamilies.
Keywords bioethics  caregiving  caring  elderly  family ethics  filial duty  gender  justice  Rawls
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