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autonomy, dignity, intensive care unit, respect, patient


Although the concept of dignity is commonly invoked in clinical care, there is not widespread agreement—in either the academic literature or in everyday clinical conversations—about what dignity means. Without a framework for understanding dignity, it is difficult to determine what threatens patients’ dignity and, conversely, how to honor commitments to protect and promote it. This article aims to change that by offering the first conceptual model of dignity for patients in the intensive care unit. The conceptual model we present is based on the notion that there are three sources of patients’ dignity—their shared humanity, personal narratives, and autonomy—each of which independently warrants respect. The article describes each source of dignity and draws on examples to illustrate how clinician attitudes, actions, and behaviors can either contribute to, or detract from, expressions of respect for patient dignity.

Publication Citation

5.1A Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics 5A (2015).


Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Health and Medical Administration | Health Law and Policy