Biopolitical Spaces, Vanished Death, & the Power of Vulnerablility in Nursing

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Using the example of how nurses killed 'mentally ill' patients during Nazi-fascism in Germany, this article employs various aspects of Giorgio Agamben’s work, including his work on the production of 'bare life'. According to Agamben's approach, and based on a Foucauldian conception of discourses, nurses during this period were governed by scientific discourses which transformed the patients that they killed into what Agamben called 'bare lives'. That is, nurses did not perceive the lives they terminated as human lives. By utilizing a perspective of 'vulnerability', it is possible to question the normative frames that govern nurses' perceptions of their patients. The outcome of this paper is a critical analysis of contemporary nursing ethics based on the work of Murray & Holmes and Judith Butler.

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