Justice and care: The implications of the Kohlberg-Gilligan debate for medical ethics

Carol Gilligan has identified two orientations to moral understanding; the dominant justice orientation and the under-valued care orientation. Based on her discernment of a voice of care, Gilligan challenges the adequacy of a deontological liberal framework for moral development and moral theory. This paper examines how the orientations of justice and care are played out in medical ethical theory. Specifically, I question whether the medical moral domain is adequately described by the norms of impartiality, universality, and equality that characterize the liberal ideal. My analysis of justice-oriented medical ethics, focuses on the libertarian theory of H.T. Engelhardt and the contractarian theory of R.M. Veatch. I suggest that in the work of E.D. Pellegrino and D.C. Thomasma we find not only a more authentic representation of medical morality but also a project that is compatible with the care orientation's emphasis on human need and responsiveness to particular others.
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