Episode 5

Published on:

22nd Mar 2024

Feminism, faith and healthcare ethics - with Ruth Groenhout

What are some of the connections - and tensions - between feminism, religious faith and healthcare ethics? In what ways does a feminist ethic of care offer an alternative to the dominant tradition in Western philosophy? And what can care ethics contribute to some of the difficult debates in contemporary healthcare, for example around new reproductive technologies and assisted dying?

These are some of the questions we explore in this episode, with Ruth Groenhout, a Distinguished Professor of Health Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Ruth's research in healthcare ethics has focussed on issues of gender, health systems and organisations, and health policy. She has published widely on care ethics, bioethics, feminism and faith, and her many books include Connected Lives: Human Nature and an Ethics of Care (2004), Bioethics: a Reformed Look at Life and Death Choice (2009) and Care Ethics and Social Structures in Medicine (2019).

We cover the following topics in this episode:

The origins of Ruth's interest in healthcare ethics (02:14)

Feminism and faith as key influences on Ruth's thinking about care (05:20)

Connected Lives (06:20)

Care ethics as an alternative philosophical perspective on what makes us human (07:30)

Feminist care ethicists who have shaped Ruth's thinking (09:49)

St. Augustine, Emmanuel Levinas and care theory (12:35)

Human flourishing as an ethical ideal for care (21:55)

Contemporary dilemmas in health care (25:25)

The limitations of evidence-based practice (31:15)

The ethics of healthcare economics (33:15)

End-of-life care (35:45)

Patient power (39:30)

Forgiveness and care (42:33)

Ruth's current work and forthcoming publications (46:15)

Links to a selection of Ruth's publications

Philosophy, Feminism and Faith

Connected Lives: Human Nature and an Ethics of Care

Bioethics: a Reformed Look at Life and Death Choices

Care Ethics and Social Structures in Medicine

'Care Ethics and Forgiveness: Lessons and Errors from the Christian Tradition' in Care Ethics, Religion and Spiritual Traditions

(links to Ruth's forthcoming publications will be added soon)

Some of the writers and thinkers mentioned in this episode

Nell Noddings

Eva Feder Kittay

Joan Tronto

Virginia Held

Sara Ruddick

Martin Buber

St. Augustine

Emmanuel Levinas

You can download a transcript of this episode by following this link to the Careful Thinking Substack.

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About the Podcast

Careful Thinking
Exploring ideas about care
At some point in our lives, we will all have the experience of caring for another person - or of being cared for ourselves. But what exactly is ‘care’, and what do we mean by ‘good’ care? How do our beliefs, identities, and the social, cultural and political contexts in which we live, shape our experience of caring or being cared for? And how can ideas, theories, and the findings from research, help us to think more care-fully – and to care more thoughtfully?

Careful Thinking explores these and similar questions, inspired by a belief that thinking critically about care can both deepen our understanding and improve the everyday practice of care. In each episode of the podcast, you'll hear an in-depth conversation with a researcher, writer or practitioner at the cutting edge of current thinking about care.

If you would like to give us your feedback, or suggest a guest or a topic for a future episode, you can get in touch at carefulthinkingpodcast@gmail.com. And you can leave comments on episodes and join in the discussion at https://carefulthinking.substack.com.

About your host

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Martin Robb

Martin Robb is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at The Open University (UK), where his research has focused on men, masculinities and care. He is the author of 'Men, Masculinities and the Care of Children: Images, Ideas and Identities' (2020) and the co-editor of 'Men and Loss: New Perspectives on Bereavement, Grief and Masculinity' (forthcoming, 2024).