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

Soc Sci Med. 2001 Sep;53(5):657-67. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(00)00368-3.


This study is a part of a comprehensive investigation into the narratives of male and female physicians and nurses concerning their experience of being in ethically difficult care situations in paediatrics. Seventeen male physicians with a range of levels of expertise, working on various wards in paediatric clinics at two university hospitals in Norway, narrated 78 stories. The transcribed interview texts were subjected to hermeneutic analysis. All the interviewees related problems in both an action and a relation ethics perspective. The main focus was on ethical problems concerning life and death decisions. The central theme was overtreatment, which they felt they could easily slip into because of a lack of exact knowledge about the outcome of life-saving treatment. The less experienced physicians required criteria and ethical guidelines that could tell them when to stop treatment, and they expected the more experienced physicians to be able to teach them about such things. The more experienced physicians, however, told a different story about life-saving practices in paediatrics. They spoke of a very demanding life situation. In such a situation communication seems decisive, not only to clarify treatment questions, but primarily to cope with life. The physicians' main concern seemed to be the parents rather than the children. Both groups underlined the importance of professional distance to patients and to ethical problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anecdotes as Topic
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Child
  • Ethics, Clinical*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Support Care / standards
  • Life Support Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Pediatrics / standards*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Withholding Treatment / standards
  • Withholding Treatment / statistics & numerical data