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Moral Distress: The State of the Science

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Moral distress, a complex human experience, has lacked a clear, complete definition. Intuitively, clinicians know that moral distress might be occurring for patients with increasing frequency due to technological advances that alter the natural order of life and death. Yet clinicians have not been able to evaluate the presence or extent of moral distress. To date, moral distress has been investigated mainly as an occupational issue using Jameton's (1984) definition, which has been problematic for several reasons. Without an adequate definition, moral distress can be unrecognized, yet have a silent, clinically significant impact on health. The literature is discussed from several perspectives to show the current state of the science in this topical area, and its potential future.
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Keywords: DECISION-MAKING; ETHICS; MORAL DISTRESS; NURSE DISTRESS; OCCUPATIONAL DISTRESS; TRUTH-TELLING; WHISTLE-BLOWING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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