Dependence and a Kantian conception of dignity as a value

Abstract
Kantian moral concepts concerning respect for human dignity have played a central role in articulating ethical guidelines for medical practice and research, and for articulating some central positions within bioethical debates more generally. The most common of these Kantian moral concepts is the obligation to respect the dignity of patients and of human research subjects as autonomous, self-determining individuals. This article describes Kant’s conceptual distinction between dignity and autonomy as values, and draws on the work of several contemporary Kantian philosophers who employ the distinction to make sense of some common moral intuitions, feelings, and norms. Drawing on this work, the article argues that the conceptual distinction between dignity and autonomy as values is indispensable in the context of considering our obligations to those who are dependent and vulnerable.
Keywords Dependence  Dignity  Existent end  Expressive duty  Kant  Respect
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DOI 10.1007/s11017-016-9351-2
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