Protecting Dignity and Values During an Accident or Illness

Having a debilitating illness or injury can be devastating. Not only is your health fractured, your dignity can be in jeopardy too. Being sick subjects us to medical procedures that leave us feeling exposed physically and mentally. It can be hard to feel secure and in control of our person when we are being put through the medical gauntlet. 

Likewise, supporting someone who is going through tough medical issues can feel uncomfortable. Being exposed literally and figuratively to procedures and losing independence can be isolating and disrupting. Being able to protect dignity and values during an accident or illness is an important part of the process. 

Medical providers and first responders see people every day who are at their worst. They are providing care to people who are injured, sick, and sometimes dying. It can take a toll on them and they tend to compartmentalize their feelings so they can do tough work without showing emotion. This can adversely affect patients who often times feel like they don’t matter outside of being a body that needs medical attention. 

Sometimes the practical side of medicine collides with the intimate side of dignity. Finding the balance is important. Here are some reminders to help maintain dignity and keep your values when you are sick or have an accident. 

Remember: Communicate- You are in the driver’s seat of your care. Communicate your beliefs, preferences, and boundaries if you feel your dignity is being affected. Though some procedures and side affects of an illness may be undignified, you can manage to protect what little dignity is available. 

Remember: Advocate- If you are someone supporting someone else with an illness or injury, you can advocate for their dignity. Lead by example and make sure their feelings, values, and person are respected and protected under every circumstance. 

Remember: The golden rule- Being nice generally brings about compassion in others. Even if you are gravely ill or chronically sick you can control how you treat others. Being kind to medical providers and those supporting you will encourage them to be kind right back.


Having an accident or illness can render people helpless and put them in tough situations. It’s important to preserve dignity and hold to values even under these circumstances. There are simple things you can do to protect your dignity and that of those you love.   

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