Moral distress

Chisholm Health Ethics Bulletin 20 (4):12 (2015)
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Ong, Caroline As health systems become more complex, moral distress is increasingly being recognised as a significant phenomenon amongst health professionals. It can be described as the state of being distressed when one is unable to act according to what one believes to be morally right. It may compromise patient care, the health professional involved and the organisation. Cumulative experiences of incompletely resolved moral distress - a phenomenon which is called moral residue - may leave us susceptible to more frequent and more severe moral distress. Clear open communication, respect, inclusivity, openness to differences, compassion, support, education and the capacity to grow in self-awareness are key aspects in minimising moral distress. Early recognition of its symptoms and addressing both personal and external constraints of actions can also minimise moral residue and build resilience to further distress.



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Caroline Ong
Loyola University, Chicago

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