Caring and Bioethics: Perspectives, Predicaments and Possibilities
This thesis presents an explorative study of the place of caring in bioethics. Through the examination of various sources of literature from the disciplines of nursing, feminist theory and ethics, and bioethics, a case is developed that argues for a valid respected place for caring, as an ethic of care in bioethical decision-making. Evidence is presented and examined from all three disciplines including critiques of caring, an ethic of care, and bioethics from all disciplinary perspectives. The case is built by providing evidence to support the fundamental importance of caring to human life, health, relationships, and survival at the broad societal level. This is supported by more detailed and specific evidence regarding the value and the ‘good’ of caring and the ethical aspects of caring. This is presented from the feminist and nursing perspectives, along with a critique of the negative aspects of caring practices. The next stage of the case presents a layout of the discipline of bioethics, using an historical perspective to illuminate the influences of bioethics’ deep past, as it still affects the discipline in the present. The development of contemporary bioethics’ current status is presented along with critiques from bioethicists themselves, and nursing and feminist theory and ethics. In the case at this point, from a bioethical perspective, two major predicaments appear to prevent an ethic of care obtaining a valid place in ethical decision-making in bioethics. These are the justice/care duality, and the conflict between different conceptions of care and autonomy. The bioethical objections and arguments put forward regarding these predicaments are picked up, meticulously and comprehensively examined and refuted, establishing a sound case for the inclusion of an ethic of care in bioethical decision-making.