• clinical ethics;
  • health policy;
  • justification;
  • moral theory;
  • patient-centred care;
  • theoretical framework


Rationale, aims and objectives  Patient-centred care has been a central part of US and UK health policy for over a decade, but, despite its importance, the policy literature often fails to provide an adequate theoretical justification for why and how we should value it. This omission is problematic because it renders the status, content and appropriate evaluation of patient-centredness unclear. In this paper we aim to examine two different accounts of patient-centred care.

Method  We draw upon methods of conceptual and ethical analysis.

Results  We argue that neither of the two accounts of patient-centred care identified appropriately grounds patient-centredness because neither of them takes into account the inherently moral nature of terms such as ‘respect’ and ‘dignity’, terms that are central to discussions of patient-centred care.

Conclusions  We suggest that clinical ethics can help to provide a theoretical justification for patient-centred care, and that clinical ethical practices can further patient-centred initiatives through ethics consultation, education and policy development and review.