Nursing Philosophy 6 (1):2-10 (2005)

It is not unusual for the adjective ‘vulnerable’ to be applied to those in receipt of nursing practice without making clear what it is that persons thus described are actually vulnerable to. In this paper I argue that the way nursing has adopted the idea of vulnerability tends to imply that some people are in some way invulnerable. This is conceptually unsustainable and renders the idea of the vulnerable patient meaningless. The paper explores the meaning of vulnerability both in general terms and in the context of nursing practice. It is argued that to be in receipt of nursing is to become, to a greater or lesser extent, more‐than‐ordinary vulnerable. Thus all patients are more‐than‐ordinarily vulnerable and this restricts their potential to flourish. Nurses are well placed to contribute to the flourishing of more‐than‐ordinarily vulnerable persons and my substantive claim is that this ‘protective’ function is indeed a legitimate and fundamental part of the role of nurses.
Keywords human flourishing  vulnerable patients  the role of nurses  vulnerability
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/nup.2005.6.issue-1
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 52,973
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Epistemic Injustice and Illness.Ian James Kidd & Havi Carel - 2017 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 34 (2):172-190.
Why Bioethics Needs a Concept of Vulnerability.Wendy Rogers, Catriona Mackenzie & Susan Dodds - 2012 - International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 5 (2):11-38.
Dignity-Enhancing Nursing Care.Chris Gastmans - 2013 - Nursing Ethics 20 (2):142-149.

View all 18 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Perils of Protection: Vulnerability and Women in Clinical Research.Toby Schonfeld - 2013 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 34 (3):189-206.


Added to PP index

Total views
64 ( #147,443 of 2,344,088 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #332,321 of 2,344,088 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes