Doctors And “Moral Injury”

Rochester Area Right to Life

By Anne LeBlanc

Tapping into research on post-traumatic stress in military veterans, a recent article suggests that doctors in many cases are suffering from “moral injury” in the same way that a veteran might.

In both cases, if someone is unable to do what he is convinced he is morally obliged to do, he suffers a sense of shame, which is “emotionally and morally exhausting.”

The conflict for doctors is described as the ethical frustration of their current work environment when it conflicts with their primary desire to heal their patients. As described in Bioedge, “Navigating an ethical path among such intensely competing drivers is emotionally and morally exhausting. Continually being caught between the Hippocratic oath, a decade of training, and the realities of making a profit from people at their sickest and most vulnerable is an untenable and unreasonable demand.”

The concept of moral injury has also been studied in veterinarians, who find themselves stressed at the requests of animal owners to euthanize a pet just for the convenience of the owner. A researcher says that it exists also among practitioners of euthanasia in Belgium.

One could also wonder about a doctor who opposes abortion but who finds himself or herself obliged in some way to perform them. Such a doctor does not want to dispose of unborn children and he is usually convinced that abortion is NOT good for the woman either. He is convinced that abortion harms women. How much “moral injury” does that doctor sustain with every abortion?

How much bigger a moral conflict could exist?

If we can be of assistance on a pro-life issue, including providing referrals for help for women with problem pregnancies, please contact Rochester Area Right to Life by mail at our office 675 Ling Road, Suite 3, Rochester, NY 14612 or by e-mail at or by phone (585) 621-4690.  You are welcome to visit our website

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