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Where families and healthcare meet
  1. M A Verkerk1,
  2. Hilde Lindemann2,
  3. Janice McLaughlin3,
  4. Jackie Leach Scully3,
  5. Ulrik Kihlbom4,
  6. Jamie Nelson2,
  7. Jacqueline Chin5
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, University Medical Centre Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Philosophy, The Michigan State University (MSU), East Lansing, Michigan, USA
  3. 3The Policy Ethics and Life Sciences (PEALS) Research Centre, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  4. 4The Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics at Uppsala University (CRB), Uppsala, Sweden
  5. 5The Centre for Biomedical Ethics (CBmE) at The National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University Health System, Clinical Research Centre, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Professor M A Verkerk, Department of Internal Medicine, University Medical Centre Groningen, P.O. Box 30001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands; m.a.verkerk{at}


Recent developments in professional healthcare pose moral problems that standard bioethics cannot even identify as problems, but that are fully visible when redefined as problems in the ethics of families. Here, we add to the growing body of work that began in the 1990s by demonstrating the need for a distinctive ethics of families. First, we discuss what ‘family’ means and why families can matter so deeply to the lives of those within them. Then, we briefly sketch how, according to an ethics of families, responsibilities must be negotiated against the backdrop of family relationships, treatment decisions must be made in the light of these negotiated responsibilities and justice must be served, both between families and society more generally and within families themselves.

  • Ethics
  • Family

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