Dying from a care ethical perspective

Late modern society expects us to take life and dying in our own hands. Dying is under the spell of designing one’s final journey. We have to take care of ourselves, have to be active and autonomous untill the very end.

Care ethics points at Ricoeur’s idea of “passibility”, his neologism for the reality that we not only act in life but also undergo life. Dying is, as is life, primarily something that befalls on us. It is not predominantly an experience of choice, of desires and preferences. This critical insight has far reaching consequences. For palliative ethics it is not sufficient, then, to be critical towards medical activism and paternalism. Speaking in a friendly way about the ‘dignity of dying’ is deficient as well. Palliative ethics has to come up with propositions that avoid the spell of autonomy but also avoids uncritical romantic ideas on a direct, fullfilling relationship between the dying person and the one who accompanies her/him.
The issue in this lecture is: how could a critical practice originate, in which the dying person and her company are positioned in a symmetric way, in the context of professionalised and complex care organisations? Care ethicist Frans Vosman, while serving as a visiting professor in Vienna, makes a proposition: the change of the paradigm of ‘a fulfilled life’ with the concept of ‘retreat’; the acknowledgement of the lived body in agony in stead of concentrating on comfort.

IFF of the Alpen-Adria University, branch Vienna hosted the lecture and discussion.

Here you can listen to the full address:  (unfortunately, this video link is not obtainable from tablet or phone)


About the author: Frans Vosman

Frans Vosman

Prof. dr. Frans Vosman studied moral theology and philosophy at Nijmegen University and did a doctorate on economical ethics in Paris and Rome. Professor Louis Vereecke was his promotor. He was engaged in medical ethics before he took interest in the ethics of care, at Tilburg University, where he was professor ethics of care. He held a chair ethics of care at the University of Humanistics, Utrecht. He was interested in combining conceptual and empirical ethics and in the fundamental political character of the ethics of care. Together with colleagues he did research in a general hospital about patients perspectives and research with regard to people with an intellectual disability. He focused on the ethics of care as a form of fundamental political ethics, He considered the connections with other forms of political ethics, with epistemology and political forms of phenomenology to be quintessential. Frans Vosman died in June, 2020

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