Moral Distress

Moral distress is a painful experience in which carers believe they know how best to care for a patient but feel prevented from doing what they believe is right, or unable to avoid involvement in what they believe is wrong, often because of institutional or financial pressures.

Since the term was introduced in I984 by Andrew Jameton, ‘moral distress’ has been the object of numerous studies in the US, in particular in the context of nursing where the presence of moral distress is linked to burnout and dropout rates. However. there is no widespread discussion of moral distress in the UK and the experience, while very common, often remains hidden and unacknowledged.


This leaflet presents a brief introduction to moral distress. Developed in collaboration with St. Francis Hospice, this resource may help to orient practitioners, patients, and carers to the central features and issues surrounding moral distress.

Green Paper

In this ‘Green Paper’ technical report, we look in greater detail at moral distress, presenting and critically discussing prominent literature. This resource may help those already aware of moral distress to deepen their understanding and to explore further questions.

Moral Distress Study Day (CPD)

Our Moral Distress Study Day is suitable for professionals in any context in which moral distress may arise. This intensive CPD training module aims to advance understanding of what moral distress is, to recognise its signs and to explore possible ways of dealing with it. Our approach is guided by our view that the first step to better dealing with moral distress, whether in one’s own case or that of another, is to better understand what it’s really like to go through it.

Testimonials from recent participants include: ‘It was so refreshing to be able to put a name to an emotion that I have experienced both in my personal and professional life – I feel validated!’; ‘I appreciate now much better how many resources and opportunities we actually offer to help recognize and deal with moral distress’.

The format of this one-day module is relaxed and open, involving short presentations from the front and group work on real-world cases.  The module is run by the Ethics of Powerlessness (EoP) team. Our AHRC-funded research can be explored via the Ethics of Powerlessness webpages.

The module is usually run on-site at institutions providing medical or social care. If you are interested in participating or hosting the module at your institution, please contact Prof. Béatrice Han-Pile at