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Dignity and equality in healthcare
  1. Pengbo Liu
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pengbo Liu, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA; mindware2000{at}


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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  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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