An argument against the use of the concept of ‘persons’ in health care ethics

Authors

  • Peter Allmark MA RGN BA (Hons)

    Corresponding author
    1. Nurse Tutor, North Trent College of Nursing and Midwifery, Sheffield, England
      Peter Allmark, 88 Murray Road, Sheffield S11 7GG, England.
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Peter Allmark, 88 Murray Road, Sheffield S11 7GG, England.

Abstract

This paper discusses the use of the concept of ‘persons’, and its related principle ‘respect for persons’, in health care ethics. It is suggested that the main use of the concept is in attempts to answer the questions: Who owes moral respect? and ‘To whom is it owed?’. An examination of different writers and their use of the concept of ‘persons’ show it to be unsuccessful in answering the first question, and dangerous and unacceptable in answering the second. Therefore, it is suggested the concept should not be used at all in health care ethics. An alternative idea is suggested, based on the work of Hursthouse (1992).

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