The ethics of space in clinical practice

Clinical Ethics 2 (2):85-91 (2007)
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The views of parents and staff about physical and symbolic space and its effects on ethical clinical practice are reported. Researchers observed four neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in southern England, and interviewed 40 senior staff and the parents of 80 babies. The adults' concerns include: how space affects the sharing of information and responsibility for the babies; respect and welcoming policies; access, freedom of movement and accessibility of staff; family friendly space and privacy; aesthetic values; and 'baby-led' space. The paper concludes that abstract principles of respect for autonomy and attitudes towards the baby's biological and personal space take on practical embodied meanings in clinical spaces and practices. NICU design and aesthetics convey powerful ethical messages of welcome or exclusion that endorse or undermine partnerships between staff and parents. Helping premature and impaired babies to reach their space at the centre of their family involves sensitive management



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