The concept of -dignity- and its use in end-of-life debates in England and FranceReport as inadecuate

The concept of -dignity- and its use in end-of-life debates in England and France - Download this document for free, or read online. Document in PDF available to download.

Reference: Horn, RJ and Kerasidou, A, (2016). The concept of “dignity” and its use in end-of-life debates in England and France. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 25 (3), 404-413.Citable link to this page:


The concept of “dignity” and its use in end-of-life debates in England and France

Abstract: Dignity is one of the most controversial and yet commonly usedterms in debates regarding end-of-life issues. The term “dignity” can take various meanings. For example, it can be used to denote the respect owed to an individual person, or to signify the intrinsic value of humankind as a whole. These two different understandings of dignity inevitably lead to different approaches to end-of-life decision-making.This paper explores the meaning of the term dignity in two European countries, England and France. Our analysis compares public debates and legislation on end-of-life related issues in these two countries. We will argue that in England dignity is most commonly understood as respect for individual autonomy, whereas in France dignity usually signifies respect for humanity as a whole. We will demonstrate that the difference in the conceptualisation of the term leads to different ethical, and hence legal and practical,approaches to end-of-life issues and vulnerable patients. Our particular focus is on: (1) withdrawing/-holding life-sustaining treatment; (2) respect for patient preferences; and (3) assistance in dying.Given the difference in the understanding of dignity, and the underlying philosophical approaches, it appearsthat there is still a long way to go before we can establish common guidelines on end-of-life decisions across Europe and beyond. However clarifying the use of the term dignity in different discussions around Europe could hopefully facilitate this endeavour.

Publication status:PublishedPeer Review status:Peer reviewedVersion:Publisher's versionNotes:Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Bibliographic Details

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Publisher Website:

Journal: Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethicssee more from them

Publication Website:

Volume: 25

Issue: 3

Extent: 404-413

Issue Date: 2016-07


Urn: uuid:fa0f5047-2d5e-4a67-904f-24bd3aed1be2

Source identifier: 617816

Eissn: 1469-2147


Issn: 0963-1801 Item Description

Type: Journal article;

Version: Publisher's versionKeywords: dignity autonomy end-of-life decisions France England Tiny URL: pubs:617816


Author: Horn, RJ - institutionUniversity of Oxford Oxford, MSD, Nuffield Department of Population Health, Population Health fundingWellco



Related documents