Conference Publication Details
Mandatory Fields
McCarthy, J
10th International Philosophy of Nursing Conference
A feminist view of ethical decision-making in nursing practice
Optional Fields
DCU, Dublin

Feminist ethics is the application of feminist theory to understanding the ethical realm. What is at the heart of feminist ethics is a concern with the impact of gender roles and gendered understandings on the moral lives of individual human beings, especially the moral lives of women. It draws attention to the power and power differentials inherent in moral relationships and highlights the way in which gender bias, oppressive hierarchies, discriminatory practices and structural injustices limit the moral agency of individuals.

Specifically, feminist ethics foregrounds the contextual socially embedded nature of moral decision-making in health care settings and it is considered to have particular relevance for nursing ethics.

This paper assesses the merits of applying a feminist lens to ethical decision-making in the Irish health care context. To do this, it focuses on two recent events in Ireland that have raised ethical and legal concerns: the unnecessary removal of women’s wombs in a Drogheda maternity hospital over a period of at least two decades; and the legal battle of a married couple over the wife’s right to implant their frozen embryos. In its analysis, this paper considers how a feminist lens foregrounds certain features of these situations that more traditional ethical frameworks omit or understate.


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