Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 141–160 | Cite as

Identity and moral responsibility of healthcare organizations

  • Martien A.M. Pijnenburg
  • Bert Gordijn


In this paper the moral responsibility of a Healthcare Organization (HCO) is conceived as an inextricable aspect of the identity of the HCO. We attempt to show that by exploring this relation a more profound insight in moral responsibility can be gained. Referring to Charles Taylor we explore the meaning of the concept of identity. It consists of three interdependent dimensions: a moral, a dialogical, and a narrative one. In section two we develop some additional arguments to apply his concept of personal identity to organizations. The final section works out the relationship of three dimensions of identity to some actual issues in contemporary HCOs: the tension between care and justice, the importance of dialogues about the diversity of goods, and the relevance of becoming familiar with the life-story of the HCO. Identity of an HCO is established and developed in commitments to and identification with certain goods that are central for a HCO. However, many of these goods are interwoven with everyday practices and policies. Therefore, moral responsibility asks for articulation of goods that often stay implicit and should not be reduced to a merely procedural approach. However difficult this articulation may be, if it is not tried at all HCOs run the risk of drifting away from their very identity as healthcare institutions: to offer care to patients and to do this in accordance with demands of social justice.


articulation of goods Charles Taylor healthcare organizations identity moral responsibility organizational ethics organizational identity social justice 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ethics, Philosophy and History of MedicineRadboud University Nijmegen Medical CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands

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