Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 519–528 | Cite as

Self-sacrifice and self-affirmation within care-giving

  • Inge van Nistelrooy
Scientific Contribution


According to the ethics of care, practices of care are sources of moral knowledge that take human relatedness into account. However, caregivers may also find themselves in situations that demand sacrifices, even to the point where their own self is at stake. This may not only be cause for concern about the risks of caregivers, the result of an unequal distribution of power, but it may as well be a chance for affirmation of one’s identity, of self-attestation. As Ricoeur argues, giving of the self or even giving one’s life may be the ultimate expression of one’s belonging, in friendship, devotion or loyalty. Ricoeur also considers the meaning of giving a gift, which to him does not lie in any return gift, but rather in the gift as offering, as generosity. Giving is first of all a risk, a sacrifice, with only the hope that it will be received. In this article I aim to extend his argument to the realm of caregiving, thereby supporting my claim that some sort of self-sacrifice is implied in the very act of caring for others.


Ricoeur Care ethics Sacrifice Self-sacrifice Caring for others Identity Self-affirmation Self-attestation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GoudaThe Netherlands

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