Oral Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Ubuntu Philosophy Abstract (#3)

Agness Tembo 1
  1. The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia

Historically, nursing has largely been based on the Western philosophies of care and ethics. The recent global COVID-19 pandemic uncovered gaps in these healthcare systems that have implications for health and social cohesion. Commercial algorithms employed to identify patients with complex needs reveal significant racial bias resulting in inequalities. These inequalities in healthcare mirror historical socio-economic disparities and are a result of implicit and explicit social stereotypes. This paper argues that inclusion of indigenous epistemologies like Ubuntu can lead to an all inclusive and equitable healthcare system.

Western ethical principles are individualistic, focusing on the rights and interests of individual people rather than the collective well-being of society. In contrast, African theories such as Ubuntu emphasise interconnectedness between people. Additionally, Ubuntu emphasises the importance of community, respect for others and interconnectedness of living things, with a strong emphasis on community and responsibility of individuals towards others. Ubuntu promotes personal commitment that inspires collaboration, flexibility and sharing in serving humanity as opposed to western epistemologies whose emphasis is on human rights and individual autonomy. Western ethical theories often prioritise emotional and intuitive approaches that can lead to rational and logical decisions that are acutely abstract and disconnected from the lived experiences of people. The general ethical principles in healthcare of Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, Justice, and Explicability foster transparency and explanability, particularly in bioethics. However, they are still inadequate as they do not encompass the value of community. Yet communal values are essential to ensuring and guiding clinicians in providing respectful and beneficial care for all patients.

Healthcare inherently affects the community as a whole.  Ubuntu moral theory can play an essential role in guiding the design, deployment and use of trustworthy healthcare systems that work for everyone, thereby, upholding the human right to equitable healthcare. Therefore, the African philosophy of Ubuntu can play a significant role in creating inclusive and ethical technological solutions in healthcare. Additionally, convergence of indigenous knowledge based on the embodiment of Ubuntu philosophy and western philosophies with their modern technologies and skills can establish improved human relations and novel practices of healthcare and service to indigenous communities in particular African communities in the diaspora. Implementing this paradigm shift will enhance caring attitudes, social harmony, and morality between nurses and those they care for. This can only be achieved through the inclusion of Ubuntu philosophy in nursing research, teaching and learning curricula.