Three versions of an ethics of care.
The ethics of care still appeals to many in spite of penetrating criticisms of it which have been presented over the past 15 years or so. This paper tries to offer an explanation for this, and then to critically engage with three versions of an ethics of care. The explanation consists firstly in the close affinities between nursing and care. The three versions identified below are by Gilligan (1982), a second by Tronto (1993), and a third by Gastmans (2006), see also Little (1998). Each version is described and then subjected to criticism. It is concluded that where the ethics of care is presented in a distinctive way, it is at its least plausible; where it is stated in more plausible forms, it is not sufficiently distinct from nor superior to at least one other common approach to nursing ethics, namely the much-maligned 'four principles' approach. What is added by this paper to what is already known: as the article tries to explain, in spite of its being subjected to sustained criticism the ethics of care retains its appeal to many scholars. The paper tries to explain why, partly by distinguishing three different versions of an ethics of care. It is also shown that all three versions are beset with problems the least serious of which is distinctiveness from other approaches to moral problems in health care.