Activity 2.6: Critical thinking

Can you think of which national and international laws pertain to human dignity? Then look up the professional code of conduct relevant to your practice.

  • Read the section pertaining to dignity and respect.
  • Critically consider how these passages relate to your personal approach to care.

Human dignity constitutes a foundational principle in Article 3 of the Human Rights Act (1998), and in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the widespread recognition of which instils this U.N. convention as customary law in most parts of the world.

The section on dignity and respect is of such fundamental importance that it appears right at the beginning of the NMC Code (2015):

1.  Treat people as individuals and uphold their dignity

        To achieve this, you must:

1.1 treat people with kindness, respect and compassion

1.2 make sure you deliver the fundamentals of care effectively

1.3 avoid making assumptions and recognise diversity and individual choice

1.4 make sure that any treatment, assistance or care for which you are responsible is delivered without undue delay, and

1.5 respect and uphold people’s human rights.

It is followed by a second section, which enshrines other important aspects of person-centred care:

2.   Listen to people and respond to their preferences and concerns

To achieve this, you must:

2.1 work in partnership with people to make sure you deliver care effectively

2.2 recognise and respect the contribution that people can make to their own health and wellbeing

2.3 encourage and empower people to share decisions about their treatment and care

2.4 respect the level to which people receiving care want to be involved in decisions about their own health, wellbeing and care

2.5 respect, support and document a person’s right to accept or refuse care and treatment, and

2.6 recognise when people are anxious or in distress and respond compassionately and politely.

Dignity and respect also feature in the International Council of Nurses’ Code of Ethics (2012).


Great Britain. (1998). Human Rights Act. HMSO.

International Council of Nurses. (2012). The ICN code of ethics for nurses. Geneva: ICN

Nursing and Midwifery Council. (2015). The code for nurses and midwives. London: NMC. Retrieved from

United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. G.A. Res. 217, U.N. GAOR, 3rd Sess., U.N. Doc. A/810