In this article, we present a dialogical approach to empirical ethics, based upon hermeneutic ethics and responsive evaluation. Hermeneutic ethics regards experience as the concrete source of moral wisdom. In order to gain a good understanding of moral issues, concrete detailed experiences and perspectives need to be exchanged. Within hermeneutic ethics dialogue is seen as a vehicle for moral learning and developing normative conclusions. Dialogue stands for a specific view on moral epistemology and methodological criteria for moral inquiry. Responsive evaluation (...) involves a structured way of setting up dialogical learning processes, by eliciting stories of participants, exchanging experiences in (homogeneous and heterogeneous) groups and drawing normative conclusions for practice. By combining these traditions we develop both a theoretical and a practical approach to empirical ethics, in which ethical issues are addressed and shaped together with stakeholders in practice. Stakeholders' experiences are not only used as a source for reflection by the ethicist; stakeholders are involved in the process of reflection and analysis, which takes place in a dialogue between participants in practice, facilitated by the ethicist. This dialogical approach to empirical ethics may give rise to questions such as: What contribution does the ethicist make? What role does ethical theory play? What is the relationship between empirical research and ethical theory in the dialogical process? In this article, these questions will be addressed by reflecting upon a project in empirical ethics that was set up in a dialogical way. The aim of this project was to develop and implement normative guidelines with and within practice, in order to improve the practice concerning coercion and compulsion in psychiatry. (shrink)
Recently, moral deliberation within care institutions is gaining more attention in medical ethics. Ongoing dialogues about ethical issues are considered as a vehicle for quality improvement of health care practices. The rise of ethical conversation methods can be understood against the broader development within medical ethics in which interaction and dialogue are seen as alternatives for both theoretical or individual reflection on ethical questions. In other disciplines, intersubjectivity is also seen as a way to handle practical problems, and methodologies have (...) emerged to deal with dynamic processes of practice improvement. An example is responsive evaluation. In this article we investigate the relationship between moral deliberation and responsive evaluation, describe their common basis in dialogical ethics and pragmatic hermeneutics, and explore the relevance of both for improving the quality of care. The synergy between the approaches is illustrated by a case example in which both play a distinct and complementary role. It concerns the implementation of quality criteria for coercion in Dutch psychiatry. (shrink)
Background Clinical moral case deliberation consists of the systematic reflection on a concrete moral case␣by health care professionals. This paper presents the study of a 4-year moral deliberation project.Objectives The objectives of this paper are to: (a) describe the practice and the theoretical background of moral deliberation, (b) describe the moral deliberation project, (c) present the outcomes of␣the evaluation of the moral case deliberation sessions, and (d) present the implementation process.Methods The implementation process is both monitored and supported by an (...) interactive responsive evaluation design with: (a) in-depth interviews, (b) Maastricht evaluation questionnaires, (c) evaluation survey, and (d) ethnographic participant observation. In accordance with the theory of responsive evaluation, researchers acted both as evaluators and moderators (i.e. ethicists).Results Both qualitative and quantitative results showed that the moral case deliberations, the role of the ethics facilitator, and the train-the-facilitator program were regarded as useful and were evaluated as (very) positive. Health care professionals reported that they improved their moral competencies (i.e. knowledge, attitude and skills). However, the new trained facilitators lacked a clear organisational structure and felt overburdened with the implementation process. The paper ends with both practical and research suggestions for future moral deliberation projects. (shrink)
Deliberative ways of dealing with ethical issues in health care are expanding. Moral case deliberation is an example, providing group-wise, structured reflection on dilemmas from practice. Although moral case deliberation is well described in literature, aims and results of moral case deliberation sessions are unknown. This research shows (a) why managers introduce moral case deliberation and (b) what moral case deliberation participants experience as moral case deliberation results. A responsive evaluation was conducted, explicating moral case deliberation experiences by analysing aims (...) (N = 78) and harvest (N = 255). A naturalistic data collection included interviews with managers and evaluation questionnaires of moral case deliberation participants (nurses). From the analysis, moral case deliberation appeals for cooperation, team bonding, critical attitude towards routines and nurses’ empowerment. Differences are that managers aim to foster identity of the nursing profession, whereas nurses emphasize learning processes and understanding perspectives. We conclude that moral case deliberation influences team cooperation that cannot be controlled with traditional management tools, but requires time and dialogue. Exchanging aims and harvest between manager and team could result in co-creating (moral) practice in which improvements for daily cooperation result from bringing together perspectives of managers and team members. (shrink)
Moral case deliberation is a dialogue among health care professionals about moral issues in practice. A trained facilitator moderates the dialogue, using a conversation method. Often, the facilitator is an ethicist. However, because of the growing interest in MCD and the need to connect MCD to practice, healthcare professionals should also become facilitators themselves. In order to transfer the facilitating expertise to health care professionals, a training program has been developed. This program enables professionals in health care institutions to acquire (...) expertise in dealing with moral questions independent of the expertise of an ethicist. Over the past 10 years, we developed a training program with a specific mix of theory and practice, aiming to foster the right attitude, skills and knowledge of the trainee. The content and the didactics of the training developed in line with the philosophy of MCD: pragmatic hermeneutics, dialogical ethics and Socratic epistemology. Central principles are: ‘learning by doing’, ‘reflection instead of ready made knowledge’, and ‘dialogue on dialogue’. This paper describes the theoretical background and the didactic content of the current training. Furthermore, we present didactic tools which we developed for stimulating active learning. We also go into lessons we learned in developing the training. Next, we provide some preliminary data from evaluation research of the training program by participants. The discussion highlights crucial aspects of educating professionals to become facilitators of MCD. The paper ends with concluding remarks and a plea for more evaluative evidence of the effectiveness and meaning of this training program for doing MCD in institutions. (shrink)
BackgroundMoral Case Deliberation is a specific form of bioethics education fostering professionals’ moral competence in order to deal with their moral questions. So far, few studies focus in detail on Moral Case Deliberation methodologies and their didactic principles. The dilemma method is a structured and frequently used method in Moral Case Deliberation that stimulates methodological reflection and reasoning through a systematic dialogue on an ethical issue experienced in practice.MethodsIn this paper we present a case-study of a Moral Case Deliberation with (...) the dilemma method in a health care institution for people with an intellectual disability, describing the theoretical background and the practical application of the dilemma method. The dilemma method focuses on moral experiences of participants concerning a concrete dilemma in practice. By an in-depth description of each of the steps of the deliberation process, we elucidate the educational value and didactics of this specific method.ResultsThe didactics and methodical steps of the dilemma method both supported and structured the dialogical reflection process of the participants. The process shows that the participants learned to recognize the moral dimension of the issue at stake and were able to distinguish various perspectives and reasons in a systematic manner. The facilitator played an important role in the learning process of the participants, by assisting them in focusing on and exploring moral aspects of the case.DiscussionThe reflection and learning process, experienced by the participants, shows competency-based characteristics. The role of the facilitator is that of a Socratic teacher with specific knowledge and skills, fostering reflection, inquiry and dialogue.ConclusionThe specific didactics of the dilemma method is well suited for teaching bioethics in clinical settings. The dilemma method follows an inductive learning approach through a dialogical moral inquiry in which participants develop not only knowledge but also skills, attitude and character. The role of a trained facilitator and a specific view on teaching and practicing ethics are essential when using the dilemma method in teaching health care professionals how to reflect on their own moral issues in practice. (shrink)
Ethicists differ considerably in their reasons for using empirical data. This paper presents a brief overview of four traditional approaches to the use of empirical data: “the prescriptive applied ethicists,” “the theorists,” “the critical applied ethicists,” and “the particularists.” The main aim of this paper is to introduce a fifth approach of more recent date (i.e. “integrated empirical ethics”) and to offer some methodological directives for research in integrated empirical ethics. All five approaches are presented in a table for heuristic (...) purposes. The table consists of eight columns: “view on distinction descriptive-prescriptive sciences,” “location of moral authority,” “central goal(s),” “types of normativity,” “use of empirical data,” “method,” “interaction empirical data and moral theory,” and “cooperation with descriptive sciences.” Ethicists can use the table in order to identify their own approach. Reflection on these issues prior to starting research in empirical ethics should lead to harmonization of the different scientific disciplines and effective planning of the final research design. Integrated empirical ethics (IEE) refers to studies in which ethicists and descriptive scientists cooperate together continuously and intensively. Both disciplines try to integrate moral theory and empirical data in order to reach a normative conclusion with respect to a specific social practice. IEE is not wholly prescriptive or wholly descriptive since IEE assumes an interdepence between facts and values and between the empirical and the normative. The paper ends with three suggestions for consideration on some of the future challenges of integrated empirical ethics. (shrink)
Since its origin bioethics has been a specialized, academic discipline, focussing on moral issues, using a vast set of globalized principles and rational techniques to evaluate and guide healthcare practices. With the emergence of a plural society, the loss of faith in experts and authorities and the decline of overarching grand narratives and shared moralities, a new approach to bioethics is needed. This approach implies a shift from an external critique of practices towards embedded ethics and interactive practice improvement, and (...) from a legal defence of rights towards fostering interdependent practices of responsibility. This article describes these transitions within bioethics in relation to the broader societal and cultural dynamics within Western societies, and traces the implications for the methodologies and changing roles of the bioethicist. The bioethicist we foresee is not just a clever expert but also a relationally sensitive person who engages stakeholders in reciprocal dialogues about their practice of responsibility and helps to integrate various sorts of knowledge (embodied, experiential, visual, and cognitive-scientific). In order to illustrate this new approach, we present a case study. It concerns a project focusing on an innovation in elderly care, based on the participation of various stakeholders, especially older people themselves. (shrink)
Clinical ethics support, in particular Moral Case Deliberation, aims to support health care providers to manage ethically difficult situations. However, there is a lack of evaluation instruments regarding outcomes of clinical ethics support in general and regarding Moral Case Deliberation (MCD) in particular. There also is a lack of clarity and consensuses regarding which MCD outcomes are beneficial. In addition, MCD outcomes might be context-sensitive. Against this background, there is a need for a standardised but flexible outcome evaluation instrument. The (...) aim of this study was to develop a multi-contextual evaluation instrument measuring health care providers’ experiences and perceived importance of outcomes of Moral Case Deliberation. (shrink)
In clinical moral decision making, emotions often play an important role. However, many clinical ethicists are ignorant, suspicious or even critical of the role of emotions in making moral decisions and in reflecting on them. This raises practical and theoretical questions about the understanding and use of emotions in clinical ethics support services. This paper presents an Aristotelian view on emotions and describes its application in the practice of moral case deliberation.According to Aristotle, emotions are an original and integral part (...) of (virtue) ethics. Emotions are an inherent part of our moral reasoning and being, and therefore they should be an inherent part of any moral deliberation. Based on Aristotle's view, we examine five specific aspects of emotions: the description of emotions, the attitude towards emotions, the thoughts present in emotions, the reliability of emotions, and the reasonable principle that guides an emotion. We then discuss three ways of dealing with emotions in the process of moral case deliberation. Finally, we present an Aristotelian conversation method, and present practical experiences using this method. (shrink)
Emotions play an important part in moral life. Within clinical ethics support (CES), one should take into account the crucial role of emotions in moral cases in clinical practice. In this paper, we present an Aristotelian approach to emotions. We argue that CES can help participants deal with emotions by fostering a joint process of investigation of the role of emotions in a case. This investigation goes beyond empathy with and moral judgment of the emotions of the case presenter. In (...) a moral case deliberation, the participants are invited to place themselves in the position of the case presenter and to investigate their own emotions in the situation. It is about critically assessing the facts in the case that cause the emotion and the related (moral) thoughts that accompany the emotion. It is also about finding the right emotion in a given situation and finding the right balance in dealing with that emotion. These steps in the moral inquiry give rise to group learning. It is a process of becoming open towards the perspectives of others, leading to new insights into what is an appropriate emotion in the specific situation. We show how this approach works in moral case deliberation. A physician presents a situation in which he is faced with a pregnant woman who is about to deliver multiple extremely premature infants at the threshold of viability. The moral deliberation of the case and the emotions therein leads to the participants’ conclusion that “compassion” is a more adequate emotion than “sadness”. The emotion “sadness” is pointed towards the tragedy that is happening to the woman. The emotion “compassion” is pointed towards the woman; it combines consideration and professional responsibility. Through the shift towards compassion, participants experienced more creativity and freedom to deal with the sad situation and to support the woman. The paper ends with an analysis and reflection on the deliberation process. In the conclusion we argue for more attention to emotions in clinical ethics support and offer some directions for doing this in the right way. (shrink)
In recent years, the attention on the use of coercion in mental health care has increased. The use of coercion is common and controversial, and involves many complex ethical challenges. The research question in this study was: What kind of ethical challenges related to the use of coercion do health care practitioners face in their daily clinical work?
Internationally, the prevalence of clinical ethics support (CES) in health care has increased over the years. Previous research on CES focused primarily on ethics committees and ethics consultation, mostly within the context of hospital care. The purpose of this article is to investigate the prevalence of different kinds of CES in various Dutch health care domains, including hospital care, mental health care, elderly care and care for people with an intellectual disability. A mixed methods design was used including two survey (...) questionnaires, sent to all health care institutions, two focus groups and 17 interviews with managing directors or ethics support staff. The findings demonstrate that the presence of ethics committees is relatively high, especially in hospitals. Moral case deliberation (MCD) is available in about half of all Dutch health care institutions, and in two-thirds of the mental health care institutions. Ethics consultants are not very prominent. A distinction is made between explicit CES forms, in which the ethical dimension of care is structurally and professionally addressed and implicit CES forms, in which ethical issues are handled indirectly and in an organic way. Explicit CES forms often go together with implicit forms of CES. MCD might function as a bridge between the two. We conclude that explicit and implicit CES are both relevant for clinical ethics in health care. We recommend research regarding how to combine them in an appropriate way. (shrink)
Little is known about how health care professionals deal with ethical challenges in mental health care, especially when not making use of a formal ethics support service. Understanding this is important in order to be able to support the professionals, to improve the quality of care, and to know in which way future ethics support services might be helpful.
Ethics training has become a common phenomenon in the training of military professionals at all levels. However, the perceived outcomes of this training remain open. In this article, we analyze the experiences of course participants who were interviewed 6–12 months after they had participated in a train-the-trainer course in military ethics developed by the Faculty of Military Sciences of the Netherlands Defence Academy. Through qualitative inductive analysis, it is shown how participants evaluate the training, how they perceive the development of (...) their moral competence, and how they see the impact of the training on their own training practice. (shrink)
The current process towards formalization within evaluation research, in particular the use of pre-set standards and the focus on predefined outcomes, implies a shift of ownership from the people who are actually involved in real clinical ethics support services in a specific context to external stakeholders who increasingly gain a say in what ‘good CESS’ should look like. The question is whether this does justice to the insights and needs of those who are directly involved in actual CESS practices, be (...) it as receivers or providers. We maintain that those actually involved in concrete CESS practices should also be involved in its evaluation, not only as respondents, but also in setting the agenda of the evaluation process and in articulating the criteria by which CESS is evaluated. Therefore, we propose a participatory approach to CESS evaluation. It focuses on the concrete contexts in which CESS takes place, reflective and dialogical learning processes, and how to be democratic and inclusive. In particular, this approach to CESS evaluation is akin to realist evaluation, dialogical evaluation, and responsive evaluation. An example of a participatory approach to evaluating CESS is presented and some critical issues concerning this approach are discussed. (shrink)
BackgroundMoral case deliberation as a form of clinical ethics support is usually implemented in health care institutions and educational programs. While there is no previous research on the use of clinical ethics support on the level of health care regulation, employees of regulatory bodies are regularly confronted with moral challenges. This pilot study describes and evaluates the use of MCD at the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate.The objective of this pilot study is to investigate: 1) the current way of dealing with (...) moral issues at the IGZ; 2) experience with and evaluation of MCD as clinical ethics support, and 3) future preferences and needs regarding clinical ethics support for dealing with moral questions at the IGZ.MethodsWe performed an explorative pilot study. The research questions were assessed by means of: 1) interviews with MCD participants during four focus groups; and 2) interviews with six key stakeholders at the IGZ. De qualitative data is illustrated by data from questionnaires on MCD outcomes, perspective taking and MCD evaluation.ResultsProfessionals do not always recognize moral issues. Employees report a need for regular and structured moral support in health care regulation. The MCD meetings are evaluated positively. The most important outcomes of MCD are feeling secure and learning from others. Additional support is needed to successfully implement MCD at the Inspectorate.ConclusionWe conclude that the respondents perceive moral case deliberation as a useful form of clinical ethics support for dealing with moral questions and issues in health care regulation. (shrink)
Moral Case Deliberation is an up and coming form of ethics support wherein clinical professionals deliberate about moral questions they face in their work. So far, it has been unclear what quality of deliberation in MCD is entailed and how to evaluate this quality. This article proposes a coding scheme that fits the theoretical background of MCD and allows researchers to evaluate the quality of the deliberation in MCDs. We consider deliberation in MCD to be of good quality when participants (...) enrich their own understanding of a case by being exposed to the viewpoints of others. In order to have such an enriching effect, the deliberation in an MCD ought to involve different kinds of arguments from the perspectives of different stakeholders and in favour of different resolutions to the case; and the process of deliberation ought to be critical but constructive. (shrink)
Moral case deliberation as a form of clinical ethics support is usually implemented in health care institutions and educational programs. While there is no previous research on the use of clinical ethics...
Background There has been little attention paid to research on the outcomes of clinical ethics support or critical reflection on what constitutes a good CES outcome. Understanding how CES users perceive the importance of CES outcomes can contribute to a better understanding, use of and normative reflection on CES outcomes. Objective To describe the perceptions of Dutch healthcare professionals on important outcomes of moral case deliberation, prior to MCD participation, and to compare results between respondents. Methods This mixed-methods study used (...) both the Euro-MCD instrument and semi-structured interviews. Healthcare professionals who were about to implement MCD were recruited from nursing homes, hospitals, psychiatry and mentally disabled care institutions. Results 331 healthcare professionals completed the Euro-MCD instrument, 13 healthcare professionals were interviewed. The outcomes perceived as most important were ‘more open communication’, ‘better mutual understanding’, ‘concrete actions’, ‘see the situation from different perspectives’, ‘consensus on how to manage the situation’ and ‘find more courses of action’. Interviewees also perceived improving quality of care, professionalism and the organization as important. Women, nurses, managers and professionals in mentally disabled care rated outcomes more highly than other respondents. Conclusions Dutch healthcare professionals perceived the MCD outcomes related to collaboration as most important. The empirical findings can contribute to shared ownership of MCD and a more specific use of MCD in different contexts. They can inform international comparative research on different CES types and contribute to normative discussions concerning CES outcomes. Future studies should reflect upon important MCD outcomes after having experienced MCD. (shrink)
The use of coercion is morally problematic and requires an ongoing critical reflection. We wondered if not knowing or being uncertain whether coercion is morally right or justified is related to professionals’ normative attitudes regarding the use of coercion. This paper describes an explorative statistical analysis based on a cross-sectional survey across seven wards in three Norwegian mental health care institutions. Descriptive analyses showed that in general the 379 respondents a) were not so sure whether coercion should be seen as (...) offending, b) agreed with the viewpoint that coercion is needed for care and security, and c) slightly disagreed that coercion could be seen as treatment. Staff did not report high rates of moral doubt related to the use of coercion, although most of them agreed there will never be a single answer to the question ‘What is the right thing to do?’. Bivariate analyses showed that the more they experienced general moral doubt and relative doubt, the more one thought that coercion is offending. Especially psychologists were critical towards coercion. We found significant differences among ward types. Respondents with decisional responsibility for coercion and leadership responsibility saw coercion less as treatment. Frequent experience with coercion was related to seeing coercion more as care and security. This study showed that experiencing moral doubt is related to some one’s normative attitude towards coercion. Future research could investigate whether moral case deliberation increases professionals’ experience of moral doubt and whether this will evoke more critical thinking and increase staff’s curiosity for alternatives to coercion. (shrink)