Moral Distress: Inability to Act or Discomfort With Moral Subjectivity?
Nursing Ethics 2009 November; 16(6): 734-742
Amidst the wealth of literature on the topic of moral distress in nursing, a single citation is ubiquitous, Andrew Jameton's 1984 book Nursing practice. The definition Jameton formulated reads '... moral distress arises when one knows the right thing to do, but institutional constraints make it nearly impossible to pursue the right course of action'. Unfortunately, it appears that, despite the frequent use of Jameton's definition of moral distress, the definition itself remains uncritically examined. It seems as if the context of how moral distress arises (i.e. anger, frustration etc.) has been co-opted as its definition. This current work suggests that the current definition is not moral distress as defined by Jameton, but rather, in large part, nursing's discomfort with moral subjectivity in end-of-life decision making. A critical examination of how the Catholic tradition's normative ethical framework accounts for moral subjectivity in end-of-life decision making serves to aid nursing's discomfort and as a starting point to recontextualize moral distress.
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