Emancipatory Theory of Compassion

Contributor: Shannon Constantinides
September 12, 2018
Updated June 24, 2019

Author – Jane Georges, PhD, RN

Year First Published – 2013

© 2019 Shannon Constantinides

Major Concepts




The Unspeakable

Biotoxic Spaces

Emancipatory Nursing Practice



Theory in its “infancy, and for now, remains a proposed set of relational statements between concepts of suffering, biopower, and compassion” (Georges, 2013, p. 8).

Brief Description

Compassion, defined as the wish that all others be free of suffering, is absolutely necessary for emancipatory nursing practice and praxis. “Emancipatory” is used to emphasize the centrality that power relations have on suffering, and the ability to render compassion impossible. The theory takes into context the impact power relationship have on the axes of gender, ethnicity, and other sociopolitical constructs. Compassion and suffering take into account broader social issues, such racism and sexism. The theory addresses both the suffering of patients and nurses, and goes beyond the nurse-patient relationship to contextualize suffering and compassion of communities and populations. The theory asserts that it is axiomatic for nursing to find ways to decrease suffering, share power, increase compassion, speak the unspeakable, teach moral imagination, and enhance voice.

Primary Source

 Georges, J.M. (2013). An Emancipatory Theory of Compassion for Nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 36(1): 2-9. doi: 10.1097/ANS.0b013e31828077d2


Jane Georges

 Dr. Jane Georges is currently Dean and professor at the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science at the University of San Diego in San Diego, California. She has an accomplished record of research and publication in the areas of palliative and end of life care. She has authored numerous refereed journal articles and book chapters with a specific focus on suffering and compassion from a critical emancipatory perspective. Her philosophical work in these areas is recognized and utilized as a model in doctoral programs in nursing internationally. Dr. Georges holds a PhD in nursing science from the University of Washington School of Nursing, as well as BSN and MS degrees from the University of California, San Francisco. She is proud to be part of a great team of faculty and students at the University of San Diego who focus nursing scholarship on the elimination of health disparities and the provision of health equity to marginalized populations.