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Fourteen experienced nurses participated in an explorative study aimed at describing the experiential aspects of moral decision making in psychiatric nursing practice In-depth interviews were conducted according to the grounded theory method These were transcribed, coded and categorized in order to generate conceptual categories The concept of benevolence was identified as a central motivating factor in the nurses’ own accounts of situations in which decisions were made on behalf of the patient This seems to conceptualize the nurses’ expressed aim to do that which is ‘good’ for the patient in responding to his or her vulnerability This study indicates the need for further research into the subjective, experiential aspect of ethical decision making from a contextual perspective