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Care for well-being or respect for dignity? A commentary on Soofi’s ‘what moral work can Nussbaum’s account of human dignity do in the context of dementia care?’
  1. Paul Formosa
  1. Department of Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Prof Paul Formosa, Department of Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia; paul.formosa{at}

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In his paper, ‘What moral work can Nussbaum’s account of human dignity do in the context of dementia care?’, Soofi1 seeks to modify Nussbaum’s conception of dignity to deal with four key objections that arise when appeals to dignity are made in the context of dementia care. We will not discuss the first of these, the redundancy of dignity talk, since this issue has already been much discussed in the literature. Instead, we will focus on the remaining three issues raised, that of the exclusion of persons with advanced dementia from having dignity, unjustified speciesism as a ground of human dignity, and the unclear practical implications that follow from having dignity.

Being clear about what dignity is, who has it, and what follows from having it, are important topics given the widespread use of appeals to dignity in the literatures on healthcare, bioethics, and human rights.2 I take dignity to be, roughly, a relational status that signifies that the bearer, or the bearer’s achievements, are worthy of reverence or respect, and consequently certain forms of interpersonal respectful treatment are warranted.3 4 So understood, it is not hard to see how problems of exclusion arise for dignity,1 at least on standard Kantian accounts where our capacity (or potential) for rational self-governance is seen as the awe-inspiring feature that grounds our dignity.3 This seems to imply that humans who lack the capacity or even the potential for …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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