Women physicians' narratives about being in ethically difficult care situations in paediatrics

Nurs Ethics. 2000 Jan;7(1):47-62. doi: 10.1177/096973300000700107.


This study is part of a comprehensive investigation of ethical thinking among male and female physicians and nurses. Nine women physicians with different levels of expertise, working in various wards in paediatric clinics at two of the university hospitals in Norway, narrated 37 stories about their experience of being in ethically difficult care situations. All of the interviewees' narrations were concerned with problems relating to both action ethics and relation ethics. The main focus was on problems in a relation ethics perspective. The most common themes in an action ethics perspective were overtreatment and withholding treatment. The more experienced physicians reasoned differently from the group of less experienced physicians and they coped with pressure in different ways. The less experienced physicians disclosed their professional experience yet seemed uncertain, while putting on an air of certainty, but the more experienced physicians disclosed both their professional and personal experience of caregiving and they seemed to allow themselves to feel uncertain in their certainty. Both groups emphasized a need for deep discussion between colleagues about their being in ethically difficult care situations.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Euthanasia, Passive
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Physicians, Women / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research
  • Resource Allocation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uncertainty
  • Withholding Treatment