Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3):615-628 (2018)

Moral distress has been the subject of extensive research and debate in the nursing ethics literature since the mid-1980s, but the concept has received comparatively little attention from those working outside of applied ethics. In this article, I defend a care ethical account of moral distress, according to which the phenomenon is the product of an agent’s inability to live up to one of her caring commitments. This account has a number of attractions. First, it places a greater emphasis on the importance of the relationship between the caregiver and her cared-for than that found in previous accounts. Second, it does not make problematic assumptions about the correctness of a caregiver’s moral judgments, as has been claimed in relation to previous accounts of moral distress. Finally, my account allows for a clear conceptual distinction to be drawn between moral distress and other forms of negative moral emotion such as guilt and regret. Earlier accounts draw this distinction by appealing to the causal aetiology of moral distress, but as I show here, such appeals are ultimately unsuccessful unless they are made from an explicitly care ethical starting point. One of the implications of my account is that moral distress has the potential to occur in the context of any caregiving relationship. This claim is explored in the final section of the paper, in relation to student-teacher and parent-child caregiving.
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-018-9911-9
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Trust and Antitrust.Annette Baier - 1986 - Ethics 96 (2):231-260.

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