How Can a Focus on the Ethical Notions of Dignity and Respect for Autonomy Help to Improve Healthcare for Elderly People in Islamic Countries?


Abeer Alamri

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 1-1-2016


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Health Care Ethics


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Henk ten Have

Committee Member

Gerard Magill

Committee Member

Joris Gielen

Committee Member

James Swindal


Autonomy, Bioethics, Dignity, Elderly, Islam


The purpose of this dissertation is to identify how can a focus on the ethical notion of dignity and respect for autonomy help to improve health care for elderly people in Islamic countries. An ethic for aging relies on the principle that the losses of age do not detract from a person’s essential autonomy. Thus, care should be provided without assuming that older people are different from those of other ages. It is possible to determine that ethical values are similar in Islamic cultures as well as, Western countries. But these values are often neglected when people face the need to provide health care to the elderly people. This dissertation provides a critical evaluation of the current view and application of the ethical concepts of dignity and respect for autonomy in Islamic countries including the ethical challenges that elderly people encounter in health care. The study focuses on three parts; first it will provide a general introduction to the bioethics in Islamic countries and its relation to Islamic law (Sharia). The argument is that human dignity does exist in the Islamic religion; however, the application and the functions of the concept in elderly health care are disregarded, due to the cultural understanding and interpretations of the concept. This have led health care providers and societies in Islamic countries to miss the momentum of implementing a strong old-age health and social support system that can maintain elderly people dignity and respect for autonomy, and meet their health care needs. The outcomes mandate further examination towards building greater consciousness of treatment and healing, towards the intellectual and cultural adjustment of health practices. The second part presents the applications of both concepts in Western countries, including their functions and meaning. The arguments characterize the notions of dignity regardless of age. It will identify how dignity is associated with respect for autonomy; thus, dignity and respect for autonomy should be a core value in health care practice. The third part analyses the differences and the deficiencies of the application of both ethical concepts to elderly health care in Islamic countries versus Western countries. The arguments will demonstrate how the application of the ethical principle of respect for autonomy in Islamic countries fails to acknowledge Beauchamp and Childress's principle of respect for autonomy. The analysis will help on understanding the major opportunities for and barriers to successful shift in the Islamic countries in regards to elderly health care and the overall process of aging. The challenge is to make sure that all health care providers have the capabilities to convey appropriate care and treatment with respect and appreciation to the elderly individuals’ dignity. It will suggest adopting several advantageous approaches that arose in the West and worldwide, and modifying it according to Islamic culture to improve elderly health care. The results justifies that the notions of dignity and respect for autonomy can help to improve elderly health care in Islamic countries. Concluding that in Islamic countries, a considerable measure of research, education, and preparation are all needed in the sphere of geriatrics to meet today’s health challenges associated with the increasing of elderly population. A need for adopting a fresh perception on an analytical gerontology and a respected devoted approach that aims to comprehend ageing process and requirements to change for the better.





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