An african american woman with stethoscope talking to african american woman with light hair

Hastings Center Report

The Power of Proximity: Toward an Ethic of Accompaniment in Surgical Care

Abstract: Although the field of surgical ethics focuses primarily on informed consent, surgical decision-making, and research ethics, some surgeons have started to consider ethical questions regarding justice and solidarity with poor and minoritized populations. To date, those calling for social justice in surgical care have emphasized increased diversity within the ranks of the surgical profession. This article, in contrast, foregrounds the agency of those most affected by injustice by bringing to bear an ethic of accompaniment. The ethic of accompaniment is born from a theological tradition that has motivated work to improve health outcomes in those at the margins through its emphasis on listening, solidarity against systemic drivers of disease, and proximity to individuals and communities. Through a review of surgical ethics and exploration of a central patient case, we argue for applying an ethic of accompaniment to the care of surgical patients and their communities.

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