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The Place of Dignity in Everyday Ethics

O'Mathúna, Dónal P.

doi: 10.1097/CNJ.0b013e3181fe7606
Feature: CE Connection

ABSTRACT Although ethics is often thought of in terms of "life-and-death" matters, many everyday situations involve ethics. Human dignity, a more recent way of expressing the belief that humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), captures the controversial notion that all humans are uniquely valuable and ought to be esteemed highly. Nurses have great opportunity to promote or demote dignity. A Christian holistic approach to ethics, exemplified by the narrative of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37), acknowledges the difficulty of always being ethical and integrates feeling, thinking, acting, and spirituality.

"Ethics" isn't just about life and death situations. How we treat patients and colleagues promotes (or demotes) human dignity and ethical conduct. What's entailed in always being ethical?

Dónal P. O'Mathúna, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer in Ethics, Decision-Making & Evidence in the School of Nursing, Dublin City University, Ireland. He regularly publishes and gives presentations on ethics in healthcare and complementary therapies (

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This material is based on a presentation given in Samara, Russia, November 2009.

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