Ethics in the neonatal intensive care unit: parental perceptions at four years postdischarge

ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 1996 Sep;19(1):72-85. doi: 10.1097/00012272-199609000-00008.


Ethical issues for the parents of neonates in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have not been widely researched. A multistage, qualitative project explored 23 families' perceptions of moral conflict and ethical decision making related to the NICU experience. Through in-depth interviews and the use of content analysis at 4 years postdischarge, life goes on (the major theme) and three conceptual categories were identified as characterizations of this phase. This phase, combined with two earlier phases (predischarge and 6 months postdischarge), represents a clinical manifestation of Reich's Theory of Suffering and provides a framework for understanding the parents' ethical perspective. Strategies for nurses that will facilitate parental participation in ethical decision making are presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Decision Making*
  • Ethics*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Recall
  • Parents* / psychology
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Values