Resolving the Conflict: Clarifying ‘Vulnerability’ in Health Care Ethics
Abstract

Vulnerability has been extensively discussed in medical research, but less so in health care. Thus, who the vulnerable in this domain are still remains an open question. One difficulty in their identification is due to the general criticism that vulnerability is not a property of only some, but rather of everyone. By presenting a philosophical analysis of the conditions of vulnerability ascription, we show that these seemingly irreconcilable understandings of vulnerability are not contradictory. Rather, they are interdependent: they refer to the same concept with different likelihoods of manifestation. We argue that the general vulnerability of living beings relies on their having certain types of interests. In health care, those individuals are particularly vulnerable who are more likely to have these interests unjustly considered. They should be afforded special protection in order to receive what is due to everyone, but which they are likely to fail to receive.


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