Dignity in Maternity Care is Respectful Care

Dignity is a touchstone concept in human rights, ethics, politics, philosophy and Respectful Maternity Care.  Human dignity is inalienable right, based on the inherent human worth of a person.  Hence, pregnant women should never be treated as a means to the ends of others.

Dignity is the opposite of humiliation and shame.  Dignity describes the felt experience of being valued while the innate human vulnerability to shame and injury is acknowledged and addressed.

Dignity is the internal state of peace, comes with the recognition and acceptance of the value and vulnerability in all humans.  In maternity care this dual focus on the woman’s value and vulnerability is key to the concept of dignity, where the recognition of the woman’s value is grounded in the acknowledgement of her vulnerability to injury and humiliation.

In maternity care, dignified environments and processes are those in which both the woman’s values and vulnerability are acknowledged and accommodated simultaneously, where she is recognised, understood, treated with safety, fairness and respect.

Hicks, D. (2011). Dignity: The Essential Role it Plays in Resolving Conflict. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Hicks, D. (2015). A matter of dignity: Building human relationships. In S. S. Levine (Ed.), Dignity matters: Psychoanalytic and Psychosocial Perspectives (pp. 1 – 21). London: Karnac.

Salter, M. & Hall, H. (2021 forthcoming), Reducing Shame, Promoting Dignity: A Model for the Primary Prevention of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder