This chapter considers why we should care about carers and engages with different theoretical approaches to recognising the caring relationship and the implications of this for those involved in such relationships. In particular the chapter considers an approach grounded in the ethic of care and one based on relational autonomy. The chapter engages with an area of Irish health law where carers are clearly excluded from the legal framework – the mental health system. The mental health system is a useful case-study as it illustrates the complexities around balancing the interests of carers and cared for persons. The chapter concludes that it is important to care about carers, but doing so must be in a manner which continues to respect the distinct individual rights of each of the parties to the caring relationship.
The Irish health system is confronted by a range of challenges, both emerging and recurring. In order to address these, it is essential that spaces are created for conversations around complex ethical and legal issues. This collection aims to provide a basis for ongoing engagement with selected issues in contemporary Irish health contexts. It includes contributions from scholars and practitioners across a range of disciplines, most particularly, ethics, law and medicine. The focus of the collection is interdisciplinary and the essays are situated at the intersection between ethics, law and medicine. Important issues addressed include admission to care homes; assisted suicide; adolescent decision-making; allocation of finite resources; conscientious objection; data protection; decision-making at the end of life; mental health; the rights of older people; patient responsibilities; stem cell research; the role of carers; and reproductive rights. From these discussion, the collection draws out the following interlinking themes, addressing difference; context and care; oversight and decision-making; and, regulating research. The essays are theoretically informed and are grounded in the realities of the Irish health system, by drawing on contributors’ contextual knowledge. This book makes an informed and balanced contribution to academic and broader public discourse.