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Moral Distress: Context, Sources, and Consequences 

Moral Distress: Context, Sources, and Consequences
Chapter:
Moral Distress: Context, Sources, and Consequences
Author(s):

Alisa Carse

and Cynda Hylton Rushton

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190619268.003.0003
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date: 06 March 2021

Moral distress, a response to moral adversity that imperils integrity under conditions of constraint, has been studied for more than three decades. The context of clinical practice, the complexities of healthcare, clinicians’ roles, and broader society, alongside exponential advances in technology and treatment, create circumstances that regularly imperil integrity. These circumstances create the conditions for burnout, disengagement, and imperiled patient care. Specifically, they foster powerlessness, frustration, anger, diminished moral responsiveness, disillusionment, and shame. The cumulative dynamic of moral distress results in myriad detrimental consequences affecting the bodies, emotions, minds, and souls of clinicians. Transforming these experiences requires a shift in orientation toward restoring and preserving integrity by cultivating capacities of moral resilience and strategies to foster systemic ethical practice.

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