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The “Violent Resident”: A Critical Exploration of the Ethics of Resident-to-Resident Aggression

Abstract

Resident-to-resident aggression is quite prevalent in long-term care settings. Within popular and empirical accounts, this form of aggression is most commonly attributed to the actions of an aberrant individual living with dementia characterized as the “violent resident.” It is often a medical diagnosis of dementia that is highlighted as the ultimate cause of aggression. This neglects the fact that acts of aggression are influenced by broader structural conditions. This has ethical implications in that the emphasis on individual aberration informs public policy strategies for prevention with a focus on restricting the freedom of individuals using behavioural modification, drugs, or other restraints with the intent to protect others from harm. A more ethical approach requires attention to the structural conditions of long-term care that both foster aggression and constrain prevention efforts. To this end, we turn to a model of relational citizenship that offers a theory of embodied selfhood and relationality as essential to human dignity, thus entailing human rights protections. The application of an ethic based on this model offers a more holistic prevention strategy for resident-to-resident aggression by drawing attention to the critical need and obligation to promote human flourishing through system level efforts.

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Correspondence to Alisa Grigorovich.

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*The views expressed in this article by the co-author Alexis Kontos are in his personal capacity and are not necessarily shared by the Department of Justice Canada.

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Grigorovich, A., Kontos, P. & Kontos, A.P. The “Violent Resident”: A Critical Exploration of the Ethics of Resident-to-Resident Aggression. Bioethical Inquiry 16, 173–183 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-019-09898-1

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Keywords

  • Dementia
  • Citizenship
  • Human rights
  • Embodied selfhood
  • Relationality