The discovery of deliberation. From ambiguity to appreciation through the learning process of doing Moral Case Deliberation in Dutch elderly care

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Apr:83:125-32. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.01.024. Epub 2013 Jan 29.


In the field of bioethics a trend can be noticed toward deliberative and collective forms of moral reflection among practitioners. Moral Case Deliberation (MCD) is an example of this development and currently introduced in an increasing number of health care organizations in the Netherlands, including elderly care. The purpose of this article is to evaluate the process of implementation of MCD focusing on the learning experiences of practitioners over time. The article is grounded in a naturalistic evaluation of the implementation of MCD in two elderly care institutions between 2006 and 2012. Methods included interviews, participant observations and focus groups. The results indicate that gaining experience with MCD brought about a learning process in which both the learning of competence for reflection and deliberation (e.g. an exploratory attitude) and experiencing the benefits (e.g. relief of moral distress) were key elements. We conclude that doing ethics is the best way to motivate practitioners to engage in moral deliberations on the work floor. Gaining practical experience should be explicitly stimulated bottom-up and facilitated top-down.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Ethics, Clinical / education*
  • Focus Groups
  • Geriatrics / ethics*
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Homes for the Aged / ethics
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Learning
  • Moral Development*
  • Netherlands
  • Nursing Homes / ethics
  • Qualitative Research