"I go into crisis when ...": ethics of care and moral dilemmas in palliative care.

Ludovica De Panfilis, Silvia Di Leo, Carlo Peruselli, Luca Ghirotto, Silvia Tanzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Recognising and knowing how to manage ethical issues and moral dilemmas can be considered an ethical skill. In this study, ethics of care is used as a theoretical framework and as a regulatory criterion in the relationship among healthcare professionals, patients with palliative care needs and family members. This study is a part of a larger project aimed at developing and implementing a training programme on "ethical communication" addressed to professionals caring for patients with palliative care needs. The aim of this study was comprehending whether and how the ethics of care informs the way healthcare professionals make sense of and handle ethical issues in palliative care. Methods: Qualitative study employing a theoretically driven thematic analysis performed on semi-structured interviews. The research was conducted in a clinical cancer centre in northern Italy. Eligible participants were physicians and nurses from eleven hospital wards who assisted patients with chronic advanced disease daily and had previously attended a 4-h training on palliative care held by the hospital Palliative Care Unit. Results: The researchers identified five themes: morality is providing global care; morality is knowing how to have a relationship with patients; morality is recognizing moral principles; moral dimension and communication; and moral dilemmas are individual conflicts. Conclusions: Ethics of care seems to emerge as a theoretical framework that includes the belief systems of healthcare professionals, especially those assisting patients with palliative care needs; moreover, it allows the values of both the patients and professionals to come to light through the relationship of care. Ethics of care is also appropriate as a framework for ethical training.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 9 2019


  • Cancer
  • Communication
  • Ethics of care
  • Palliative care
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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