Bouke de Vries
Umeå University
It is commonly assumed that many, if not most, adult children have moral duties to visit their parents when they can do so at reasonable cost. However, whether such duties persist when the parents lose the ability to recognise their children, usually due to dementia, is more controversial. Over 40% of respondents in a public survey from the British Alzheimer’s Society said that it was “pointless” to keep up contact at this stage. Insofar as one cannot be morally required to do pointless things, this would suggest that children are relieved of any duties to visit their parents. In what appears to be the only scholarly treatment of this issue, Claudia Mills has defended this view, arguing that our duties to visit our parents require a type of relationship that is lost when parents no longer remember who their children are. This article challenges Mills’ argument. Not only can children be duty-bound to visit parents who have lost the ability to recognise them, I argue that many children do in fact have such duties. As I show, these duties are grounded in any special interests that their parents have in their company; the fact that visiting their parents might allow them to comply with generic duties of sociability; and/or the fact that such visits allow them to express any gratitude that they owe their parents.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11019-019-09931-5
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 50,342
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Four Theories of Filial Duty.Simon Keller - 2006 - Philosophical Quarterly 56 (223):254 - 274.
A Human Right Against Social Deprivation.Kimberley Brownlee - 2013 - Philosophical Quarterly 63 (251):199-222.
Making Sense of Dignity.Richard Ashcroft - 2005 - Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (11):679-682.
Gratitude as a Virtue.Christopher Heath Wellman - 1999 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (3):284–300.
Autonomy and Liberalism.Ben Colburn - 2010 - New York, USA: Routledge.

View all 19 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

All in the Family.Henk ten Have & Bert Gordijn - 2020 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 23 (1):1-2.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Qualitative Assessment of Self-Identity in Advanced Dementia.Sadhvi Batra, Jacqueline Sullivan, Beverly R. Williams & David S. Geldmacher - 2015 - Dementia: The International Journal of Social Research and Practice:1-19.
The Justification of Associative Duties.Seth Lazar - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (1):28-55.
Dementia in Our Midst: The Moral Community.Stephen G. Post - 1995 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 4 (2):142.
On the Duties of Shared Parenting.Philip Cook - 2012 - Ethics and Social Welfare 6 (2):168-181.
Associative Duties and the Ethics of Killing in War.Seth Lazar - 2013 - Journal of Practical Ethics 1 (1):3-48.
Parental Responsibility and Entitlement.Anna-Karin Andersson - 2014 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 28 (1):49-69.
Is It Okay to Let My Child Be Stung by a Wasp?Fiona Woollard - 2019 - The Philosophers' Magazine 86:51-57.
In Loco Parent Is:A Relationship Between Parent, State and Child.Jenny Shaw - 1977 - Journal of Moral Education 6 (3):181-190.


Added to PP index

Total views
10 ( #800,094 of 2,326,053 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #165,413 of 2,326,053 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes