Repairing moral injury takes a team: what clinicians can learn from combat veterans

Journal of Medical Ethics 49 (5):361-366 (2023)
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Moral injury results from the violation of deeply held moral commitments leading to emotional and existential distress. The phenomenon was initially described by psychologists and psychiatrists associated with the US Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs but has since been applied more broadly. Although its application to healthcare preceded COVID-19, healthcare professionals have taken greater interest in moral injury since the pandemic’s advent. They have much to learn from combat veterans, who have substantial experience in identifying and addressing moral injury—particularly its social dimensions. Veterans recognise that complex social factors lead to moral injury, and therefore a community approach is necessary for healing. We argue that similar attention must be given in healthcare, where a team-oriented and multidimensional approach is essential both for ameliorating the suffering faced by health professionals and for addressing the underlying causes that give rise to moral injury.



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