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Theor Med. 1992 Dec;13(4):295-318.

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

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Office of the Dean of Research, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20007.


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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