Can the Ethical Best Practice of Shared Decision-Making lead to Moral Distress?

Original Research


When healthcare professionals feel constrained from acting in a patient’s best interests, moral distress ensues. The resulting negative sequelae of burnout, poor retention rates, and ultimately poor patient care are well recognized across healthcare providers. Yet an appreciation of how particular disciplines, including physicians, come to be “constrained” in their actions is still lacking. This paper will examine how the application of shared decision-making may contribute to the experience of moral distress for physicians and why such distress may go under-recognized. Appreciation of these dynamics may assist in cross-discipline sensitivity, enabling more constructive dialogue and collaboration.


Decision-making Neonatology Clinical ethics End-of-life issues Professional–professional relationship 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neonatal MedicineThe Royal Children’s HospitalMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Newborn ResearchRoyal Womens’s HospitalMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Murdoch Children’s Research InstituteMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.Children’s Bioethics CentreRoyal Children’s HospitalMelbourneAustralia

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