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Keywords:

  • moral domain;
  • moral perception;
  • whole person;
  • components of empathy;
  • helping relationships;
  • client outcomes;
  • professional conduct

Nursing, empathy and perception of the moral

Over the last 15–20 years we have witnessed a dramatic interest in the moral domain of clinical practice. There has also been a growing focus on the patient as an individual whose individuality and perspective must be respected. It is argued in this paper that a key to both these concerns is a consideration of the role of empathy in both perceiving the moral aspects and issues of practice, and in providing adequate support for patients. In this paper the meaning and components of empathy are discussed in the context of human receptivity and preconditions of moral performance. However, we also draw attention to empirical studies which suggest that even following adequate educational preparation, if the clinical environment and the structures within which care is delivered are not supportive, the practitioner’s ability to perceive the moral is limited. In such circumstances, patients are in danger of receiving less than appropriate care — from both the moral and professional perspective.