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Respecting dignity in forensic care: the challenge faced by nurses of maintaining patient dignity in clinical caring situations


L.-K. Gustafsson, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Box 325, 63105 Eskilstuna, Sweden, E-mail:


Accessible summary

  • • This paper is based on group interviews with carers in psychiatric forensic care in Sweden, about the subject of respecting patient's dignity.
  • • Respecting dignity is one of the basic topics in caring and is taken to its limits psychiatric forensic care, where the patients are placed into care involuntary.
  • • The study illuminates the meaning of maintenance of patient dignity as protection and respect but also as showing brotherly humanity.
  • • A deeper understanding of the meaning of maintenance and respecting of patient dignity in forensic care will enable nurses to plan and provide qualitative care for these patients.


We must recognize the importance of increased understanding for maintaining patient dignity to expand earlier formulated knowledge about caring ethics. Illuminations of this topic can create conditions for changing and developing care, as well as making caregivers' preservation of dignity evident. The aim was to illuminate the meaning of maintenance of patient dignity in forensic care. A qualitative design with a phenomenological–hermeneutic approach was used to analyse and interpret focus group interviews with nurses in forensic care. In the text the meaning of maintenance of patient dignity was protection and respect but also brotherly humanity. Protection was shown outwards to cover or screen the patient and to guard against danger. The inner form was described as protecting the patients' needs and arousing the patients' protection resources. Respect was shown outwards to take the patient seriously and to show others that patients are to be reckoned with, inwards in teaching patients to create respect and in teaching patients to expect respect from others. Meeting patients with human brotherhood was shown in doing ‘the little extra’ and demonstrating human similarity. The new understanding will enable nurses to plan and provide professional care, based on caring science.