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Nurs Ethics. 2013 Mar;20(2):142-9. doi: 10.1177/0969733012473772.

Dignity-enhancing nursing care: a foundational ethical framework.

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Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of Leuven, Kapucijnenvoer 35, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Starting from two observations regarding nursing ethics research in the past two decades, namely, the dominant influence of both the empirical methods and the principles approach, we present the cornerstones of a foundational argument-based nursing ethics framework. First, we briefly outline the general philosophical-ethical background from which we develop our framework. This is based on three aspects: lived experience, interpretative dialogue, and normative standard. Against this background, we identify and explore three key concepts--vulnerability, care, and dignity--that must be observed in an ethical approach to nursing. Based on these concepts, we argue that the ethical essence of nursing is the provision of care in response to the vulnerability of a human being in order to maintain, protect, and promote his or her dignity as much as possible.

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