Online Dignity Engagement Space

For Health and Social Care Practice

A human rights-based approach to dignity 

Learn

Learn more about dignity.

Engage

Engage with the learning activities.

What is dignity?

Dignity is a concept that most of us intuitively understand. Most of us would like to be treated with dignity and to be respectful of others’ rights as individuals. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. In a healthcare context, most professionals want to provide care to patients that maintains individual’s dignity and rights. However, it can be challenging to understand how to translate the concepts of dignity and human rights into the actual practice of care – involving real people, in often stressful situations.

Why focus on ‘dignity’ in care?

One of the best responses is the fact that, in research studies, dignity has been identified by people as one of the most important aspects of their care.  

Dignity has a key place in healthcare policy in all of the UK nations 

Policies adopted by the nursing profession regulators show that dignity is described as a key priority for nursing practice. 

Dignity is an idea that is also closely linked to human rights standards, and human rights duties bind institutions that work on behalf of UK governments. 

While such duties, policies and principles all emphasise the importance for care providers to ensure people are treated with dignity, it is important to acknowledge the fact that such policies and principles are written in the abstract and often fail to recognise some of the environmental or practical barriers that you may face in actually delivering dignity in care and protecting human rights.   

Nevertheless, to have the best chance of supporting dignity in care and human rights protection it is necessary to understand what dignity and human rights mean in this context. This is because yoare required to make decisions and undertake tasks in your professional practice that will impact greatly on the dignity and human rights of those in your care. 

DigniSpace aims to help you to do this. It provides space and a structure for you to engage with the idea of dignity from a human rights perspective and to explore how this relates to your practice.  

Dignispace logo mark - hand with medical gloves on, making a heart shape, with a symbol of human rights inside

Glossary

Dignity

Dignity is an idea that is deeply embedded in personal moral values and ethical relationships, and in democratic societies and their legal systems. It is an idea that can perhaps never be fully, concretely ‘defined’; in fact its value and endurance as an idea might lie in its indefinable quality. 

Human rights 

Human rights are a set of entitlements recognised in law for all people and underpinned by fundamental values. A core underpinning value is respect for dignity.

A human rights-based approach to dignity 

Human rights-based approaches focus on making decisions and implementing policies in ways that aim to promote peoples’ human rights. Such approaches tend to be structured around a number of principles. A human rights-based approach to dignity in care means understanding dignity through the prism of the human rights legal framework. This perspective highlights ways in which dignity in care can be seen as an entitlement of people for which care providers should be held accountable.

Navigating DigniSpace

DigniSpace is structured around a human rights-based approach as defined by the Scottish Human Rights Commission:

"Taking a human rights-based approach is about making sure that people's rights are put at the very centre of policies and practices."

The Scottish Human Rights Commission uses the acronym PANEL to capture the principles that should guide the understanding and implementation of a human rights-based approach.  

P

Participation  

A

Accountability

N

Non-discrimination   

E

Empowerment

L

Legality

P

Participation  

A

Accountability

N

Non-discrimination   

E

Empowerment

L

Legality

These definitions are given in Scottish Human Rights Commission, ‘Human Rights Based Approach – A Self-Assessment Tool’, December 2018.  

DigniSpace is structured around these principles. Each principle encompasses three levels of engagement.  

At the third level, you will be invited to connect your learning around PANEL back to the idea of dignity. In DigniSpace, dignity is described as a PRE-PANEL principle to help clarify its relationship to the PANEL principles and to break down its meaning in a way that is accessible but not oversimplified. To explore what ‘PRE’ stands for, you can access the Learn tab that you can access from various places on this website. It will be helpful to read this short section before you engage with the learning activities.

 

How to use DigniSpace

DigniSpace has been designed through co production for you to interrogate the concept of Dignity using a human rights based approach. There are 15 units of self-directed reflective learning activities.

You can dip in and out of DigniSpace as often as you would like to and there is no restriction on the number of attempts that you will have to access this space.

Reflective exercises can be filled out and saved digitally on your computer as PDF, or voice clips, and/or printed out for your reference as required later. Please remember to label them, for your reference.

Dignispace was co-produced primarily with nursing students. If you are in a different area of health or social care practice, the learning will still be relevant to you. You are welcome to adapt some activities so that they resonate more with your own personal expertise and experience. 

The learning on the UK human rights law framework applies to all public authorities as well as private organisations providing care that is funded or organised by local authorities. Currently this excludes some care providers from having direct duties under UK human rights law, notably those whose residents privately fund their care, but this may change in future and a human rights-based approach is nevertheless considered best practice.

The research underpinning DigniSpace took place in Scotland, where the research team is based. DigniSpace uses a definition of a human rights-based approach found in the work of the Scottish Human Rights Commission and uses examples of Scottish policy in some activities. Dignispace also uses UK-wide examples, such as examples based on the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the British Institute of Human Rights. If you are accessing DigniSpace outside of Scotland, the learning will still be relevant to you but you may prefer in some activities to think about a different policy that you are more familiar with. 

Project Team

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