Ethics of Care (EOC) and Healthcare

Updated on: March 1, 2023

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EOC is a feminist philosophical perception that uses rational and context-bound methodology toward principles and decision-making. Caring is a universal attribute of human relationships and is the basis of many social connections. For people to forge friendships and bonds, the involved parties must feel cared for. This insinuates that the feelings of both people are considered and their needs met based on this consideration. In professional settings, EOC stands out as professionals providing care to those in need of help must display concern for the welfare of their clients. This implies looking beyond the professional needs of the client and the required services a worker should offer and developing a relationship with the client. The client is required to feel that their provider cares about what happens to them and the outcome of the services rendered (D’Olimpio, 2019). Ethics of care ensures that a professional shows commitment to providing aid and that the solutions provided are the best available to meet their client’s needs (Harris, 2009). Ethics of care in all relationships is based on the principle that the association is mutually beneficial for both parties. This is especially crucial for non-professional relationships such as friendships.

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History and development

During the 1970s and 1980, EOC originated as a moral theory alongside challenges to utilitarianism and deontologist. Carol Gilligan conducted the original work in the early 1970s, aiming to react to the ‘Psychology of Moral Development by Lawrence Kohlberg. Kohlberg researched with male participants and the responses were seen to emanate from the point of immense logic, personal perspective, and self-centered thinking. Gilligan carried out alternative research with both men and women to incorporate the perspectives of both sexes in the results of the research. She discovered that it was popular amongst women to interpret various moral situations as problems of care and responsibility rather than ones based on responsibilities and procedures (D’Olimpio, 2019). In its evolution, Gilligan saw EOC develop in three stages, with the first being care for oneself. This was followed by care for the needs and feelings of other people and the final stage, a balance between care for one’s needs and those of others. This ensured that the EOC led to the maturation of mutually beneficial relationships that ensured the characters complimented each other.

Difference between EOC and Common Normative Ethical Philosophies

EOC differs from common normative ethical philosophies such as Immanuel Kant’s deontology and Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism. Both normative philosophies are somewhat rigid, relying on set rules and procedures to guide decision-making. The two philosophies encourage moral agents to be unemotional, putting their feelings aside when making the necessary decisions. EOC, on the other hand, emphasizes the place of feelings and emotions in decision-making. The philosophy argues that decisions cannot be devoid of the relationship developed between different characters. If one is asked to provide opinions on the actions of two characters – one a friend and the other unrelated – the friend is likely to gain. This is because the emotions emanating from the relationship the friends share are likely to influence the judgment persona. EOC also incorporates the crucial aspects advocated by the two normative ethical principles of rules and regulations. It suggests that ethical decisions are not based on a single set of factors but rather an integration of all factors that come into play to affect decision-making.


EOC encourages me to interrogate my decision-making process and sheds new light on errors I might have made following conventional ethical philosophies. This is because EOC compels me to look at a previously ignored angle of emotions and feelings toward the person in question. Additionally, I realize that emotions may have clouded my morality in the past, with people I have a relationship with being judged less harshly (Groot et al., 2018). I realize how crucial it is that my ethical decisions integrate all the necessary factors without letting emotions take the lead. Within my professional practice, I have realized it is necessary to develop meaningful connections with my patients (Harris, 2009). They must feel my concern for their wellness and believe that I advocate for the best outcomes, ensuring mutual trust. The development of a relationship with the patients by increasing my view of them to include their welfare outside the healthcare facility is vital. I intend to prioritize other aspects of their lives in addition to diseases, as a means of ensuring I can treat them better and forge bonds.

EOC Resources

EOC was a much appreciated and adopted philosophical approach in healthcare since its inception and has been developing since then. Doctors have found it worthwhile to apply the concepts of this approach in the practice of medicine and this has been immensely revolutionary for practice. A key example of a case where doctors applied EOC was the response to the storm in Puerto Rico in 2017 (Mulligan & Garriga-López, 2020). A category four hurricane hit the country and damaged most of the infrastructure previously developed, including healthcare centers. Countless people were injured in the process and scores lost their lives. The doctors pulled together to care for their people by fixing the damaged parts of the healthcare centers. This ensured that the affected people could seek much-needed healthcare like before. The doctors went beyond the call of duty and standards set for them before they could attend to patients. One key component of healthcare practice is an environment that does not endanger the lives of patients and healthcare practitioners.

The doctors would be within their rights to detest attending to the patients in an environment that endangered their own lives. The doctors defied this requirement and prioritized the need of their people based on their emotional and humane orientation. The doctors found meaning in their work beyond the luxurious position the career confers them. They demonstrated care for the plight of their patients and attended to them despite the challenges. They cared for them because they wanted to better their lives, ensuring their actions eclipsed professional requirements (Mulligan & Garriga-López, 2020). This is a crucial aspect of EOC, which requires professionals tending to the needs of various people to look beyond the mandatory requirements and carry out duties based on the connections forged. Notably, the patients in the wards had incurred immense financial losses in addition to health challenges. This guarantees that they were mostly unable to meet the healthcare costs in a timely fashion, guaranteeing that the doctors acted out of noble impulse. They were driven by the desire to see their patients recover rather than enjoy financial benefits from their labor.

Doctors also demonstrate adherence to EOC within the palliative care wards that deal with patients suffering from life-threatening conditions. De Panfilis et al. (2019) investigate the caring aspects of physicians who deal with terminally ill patients. Palliative care is immensely draining for the families caring for their relatives due to the inevitability of death and the desperation associated with the state. Doctors within this field focus on ensuring their patients achieve maximum comfort within the latter days of their lives with no possibility of healing. The practice of medicine is mainly regarded as curative, with various faculties ignoring its impact in providing comfort.

Palliative care demands the practice of caution and the exercise of regard for the emotional needs of associated relatives. De Panfilis et al. (2019) emphasize that a doctor must adequately learn efficient communication skills to inform the families about the dire situation. The information must be disseminated in a manner that safeguards the emotions of these family members, demonstrating regard for emotions as prescribed by EOC. The research discovered that morality requires a doctor to develop relationships with their patients and their families (De Panfilis et al., 2019). Morality also requires doctors to recognize the individual conflict that may compromise their judgment when caring for palliative patients. Striking a balance between emotions that may hamper effectiveness and those that boost efficiency is a vital aspect of EOC.


In conclusion, EOC is a revolutionary philosophy that has been vital in changing viewpoints of morality and dismissing other biased philosophies. The approach has been crucial in eliminating the stigma that surrounds decision-making that relies on emotions and feelings. EOC is vital in developing personal relationships and professional relationships between caregivers and receivers. Personal relations must demonstrate mutual benefit and regard, while professional relationships must go beyond the call of duty. A doctor’s career is particularly hinged on this principle, requiring them to go beyond the hospital.


D’Olimpio, L. (2019). Ethics explainer: Ethics of care. THE ETHICS CENTRE. Web.

De Panfilis, L., Di Leo, S., Peruselli, C., Ghirotto, L., & Tanzi, S. (2019). “I go into crisis when …”: ethics of care and moral dilemmas in palliative care. BMC Palliative Care, 18(1), 1–8. Web.

Groot, B. C., Vink, M., Haveman, A., Huberts, M., Schout, G., & Abma, T. A. (2018). Ethics of care in participatory health research: mutual responsibility in collaboration with co-researchers. Educational Action Research, 27(2), 286–302. Web.

Harris, J. C. (2009). Toward a restorative medicine—The Science of care. JAMA, 301(16), 1710–1712. Web.

Mulligan, J. M., & Garriga-López, A. (2020). Forging compromise after the storm: activism as ethics of care among health care workers in Puerto Rico. Critical Public Health, 31(2), 214–225. Web.

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