Moral Distress and the Limits of Ethical EmpowermentThe benefits and limitations of ethics education in a clinical context can be brought into sharper focus by examining the concept of moral distress. The conventional definition of moral distress as knowing what is right, but being prevented from doing it risks overlooking other moral challenges faced by clinicians that can also be distressing. One of the oft-cited benefits of ethics education in a clinical context is the reduction of moral distress. It turns out that not all moral distress, in a broader sense of the term, can be overcome through education and empowerment, and we should consider other ways to address it.
Michael Wassenaar, PhD, MDiv
Clinical Ethicist at Spectrum Health System in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Recorded October 27, 2010