Extending the Boundaries of Care: Medical Ethics and Caring Practices

Extending the Boundaries of Care: Medical Ethics and Caring Practices

Extending the Boundaries of Care: Medical Ethics and Caring Practices

Extending the Boundaries of Care: Medical Ethics and Caring Practices

Synopsis

How is the concept of patient care adapting in response to rapid changes in healthcare delivery and advances in medical technology? How are questions of ethical responsibility and social diversity shaping the definitions of healthcare?In this topical study, scholars in anthropology, nursing theory, law and ethics explore questions involving the changing relationship between patient care and medical ethics. Contributors address issues that challenge the boundaries of patient care, such as:¿ HIV-related care and research¿ the impact of new reproductive technologies¿ preventative healthcare¿ technological breakthroughs that are changing personal-caring relationships.Chapters range from a consideration of the practicalities of nursing and family healthcare to a debate about 'universal human needs' and patients' rights.This book is a provocative exploration of the ways in which healthcare models are socially constructed. It will be of interest to policy-makers, medical practitioners and administrators, as well as students of sociology, anthropology and social policy.

Excerpt

This book has emerged out of a workshop held at the Centre for the CrossCultural Research on Women in Oxford attended by people from a number of different fields who needed to speak clearly to each other in order to foster an active and fruitful debate. The chapters presented here draw together diverse and overlapping points of view on a constellation of issues around a common theme: they question the way ‘care’ is conceptualized and practised. Rather than trying to construct an abstract argument that characterizes ideal-type solutions to ethical issues related to care, this book explores the different ways in which individuals and groups are grappling with very real practical difficulties and draws out the underlying themes that are being problematized. We do not aim to construct spurious consensus, only to clear some ground for cross-disciplinary discussion through which we can come to see the ways in which the boundaries of ‘care’ are being extended and refined in popular as well as professional understanding.

‘Caring’ is, at least on the surface, fairly unambiguously associated with things positive. It is in one sense a practical term which refers to actions that ‘carers’ in the broadest sense (nurses, doctors, relatives, friends, etc.) carry out for the benefit of other individuals. There is more to care than this, though. Care may be carried out in a variety of contexts, including domestic, institutional and community-based. Care may be conceptualized in a variety of ways – as a duty, as a responsibility, as a professional task, as a labour of love. Care is affective as well as effective.

Understanding the meaning of care is not straightforward. Thus, the starting-point of most texts concerned with describing or defining care is to try and frame care in relation to particular needs. However, ‘care’ is very resistant to such clarification because of the taken-for-granted, practical and yet highly emotionally charged nature of caring practice.

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