This paper critically examines Barclay’s conception of dignity proposed in her ‘Dignitarian Medical Ethics’. According to Barclay, a subject S enjoys dignity if and only if S is reliably treated as having equal social status. I argue that Barclay’s view faces a number of practical and theoretical problems. First, it is not obvious that failing to treat someone as a social equal is incompatible with respecting her dignity. Second, it is not always clear what treating someone as a social equal amounts to in practice. To be more compelling, her conception of dignity needs to be supplemented with a more principled and substantive account of the content of equal treatment.
- human dignity
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