Dignity in later life (The Daniel W. Foster, M.D., Visiting Lectureship in Medical Ethics)


Some argue dignity is a useless concept that bioethics can do without. Against this view, I show dignity is a central concern for bioethics, particularly for older people. Dignity's importance during later life is part of a broader view I call the life stage relativity of values. It holds that different values emerge as central at different periods of our lives. During early life, caring, trust, and nurturing figure prominently due to vulnerabilities that characterize infancy and childhood. By adulthood, greater physical and emotional independence leads to autonomy and self-reliance taking center stage. During later life, heightened risk for chronic disease and disability makes keeping dignity intact a critical concern. Across the lifespan, the highest value for an individual relates to their life stage circumstances. Ignoring this can lead to life stage bias, especially midlife bias, which occurs when we apply values central during midlife to all life stages.

General Notes

The Daniel W. Foster, M.D. Visiting Lectureship In Medical Ethics (in conjunction with Ethics Grand Rounds). Tuesday, December 12, 2023; noon to 1 p.m. (Central Time); Room NB2.100A or via Zoom. "Dignity in Later Life." Nancy S. Jecker, Ph.D., Professor of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Table of Contents


Grand Rounds, Aged, Aging, Bioethics, Human Rights, Personhood, Quality of Health Care, Quality of Life, Teaching Rounds


Related URI