Promoting the Dignity of the Child in Hospital
Nursing Ethics 2003 January; 10(1): 67-76
This article aims to deconstruct the concept of dignity in a way that is meaningful, in particular to nurses and other health workers who seek to promote the dignity of children in their care. Despite the emphasis in a variety of codes and policies to promote dignity, there is a lack of a clear definition of dignity in the literature. In particular there is little reference to dignity, theoretically or empirically, as it relates to children. Without clarity it is not possible to act in an ethical way on behalf of children whose dignity could otherwise be compromised. The theoretical position taken has evolved from the medico-nursing and philosophical discourse concerning the nature of human dignity and more recent sociological texts that discuss the social construction of the child and childhood. The article is further influenced by additional insights derived from an ethnographic pilot study at a large district general hospital. This study was undertaken in an attempt to appreciate the subjective experience of dignity by children, and to begin to address the empirical gap in the literature and promote discussion. The concept of a macro and a micro dignity is discussed, together with the role of the nurse in articulating the relationship between the two. The importance of control and witnesses in the experience of dignity is discussed and, finally, also the ethical implications when seeking to promote the dignity of children.
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