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Nursing, obedience, and complicity with eugenics: a contextual interpretation of nursing morality at the turn of the twentieth century
  1. M Berghs1,
  2. B Dierckx de Casterlé2,
  3. C Gastmans1
  1. 1Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2Centre for Health Services and Nursing Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to:
 Chris Gastmans
 Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Catholic University of Leuven, Kapucijnenvoer 35, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium; Chris.Gastmans{at}


This paper uses Margaret Urban Walker’s “expressive collaborative” method of moral inquiry to examine and illustrate the morality of nurses in Great Britain from around 1860 to 1915, as well as nursing complicity in one of the first eugenic policies. The authors aim to focus on how context shapes and limits morality and agency in nurses and contributes to a better understanding of debates in nursing ethics both in the past and present.

  • ethics
  • nursing
  • history
  • obedience
  • eugenics
  • walker

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