Moral Distress, Ethical Environment, and the Embedded Ethicist

 

Donna Messutta, The Journal of Clinical Ethics 28, no. 4 (Winter 2017): 318-24.

 

Interest in understanding the experience of moral distress has steadily gained traction in the 30 years since Jameton first described the phenomenon. This curiosity should be of no surprise, since we now have data documenting the incidence across most caregiver roles and healthcare settings, both in the United States and internationally. The data have also amplified healthcare providersí voices who report that the quality of the ethical environment is pivotal to preventing and containing the adverse effects caused by moral distress. Healthcare providers are asking for a moral space where ethics occurs at the bedside, in real time, applied to real cases. They are asking for ethics expertise to be available as part of the care team during their daily work, when treatment goals must be determined and decisions must be made. They are asking for an embedded ethicist who can help cultivate an ethical environment where formal ethics policy is properly applied to practice. This discussion advocates for an embedded ethics resource model that responds to contemporaneous ethics needs as a strategy to mitigate the effects of moral distress.

 

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