Important situations that capture moral distress in paediatric oncology


Important situations that capture moral distress in paediatric oncology


Af Sandeberg M; Bartholdson C; Pergert P


BMC Medical Ethics




Paediatric oncology; Healthcare professionals; Hospital settings; Medical doctors; Moral distress; Nursing assistants; Registered nurses


BACKGROUND: The paediatric Moral Distress Scale-Revised (MDS-R) was previously translated and adapted to Swedish paediatric oncology. Cognitive interviews revealed five not captured situations among the 21 items, resulting in five added items: 22) Lack of time for conversations with patients/families, 23) Parents' unrealistic expectations, 24) Not to talk about death with a dying child, 25) To perform painful procedures, 26) To decide on treatment/care when uncertain. The aim was to explore experiences of moral distress in the five added situations in the Swedish paediatric MDS-R, among healthcare professionals (HCPs) in paediatric oncology. METHODS: In this national cross-sectional survey, the Swedish paediatric MDS-R, including five added items, were used. Descriptive statistics, non-parametric analysis of differences between professions and a MDS-R score for each item were calculated. Internal consistency was tested using Cronbach's alpha and inter-item correlation test. HCPs (n = 278) at all six Swedish paediatric oncology centres participated (> 89%). The Regional Ethical Review Board had no objections. Consent was assumed when the survey was returned. RESULTS: Nursing assistants (NAs) reported higher intensity and lower frequency on all added items; registered nurses (RNs) reported a higher frequency on item 22-25; medical doctors (MDs) reported higher MDS-R score on item 26. On item 22, intensity was moderate for RNs and MDs and high for NAs, and frequency was high among all. Item 22, had the second highest MDS-R score of all 26 for all professional groups. On item 23, the level of disturbance was low but it occurred often. The 26-item version showed good internal consistency for the overall sample and for all professional groups. However, item 22 and 24 could be viewed as redundant to two of the original 21. CONCLUSION: In accordance with other studies, the intensity was higher than the frequency, however, the frequency of the added items was higher than of the original items. In line with previous research, item 22 and 23 are important elements of moral distress. RNs experience the situations more often while NAs find them more disturbing. The results indicate that the added items are important in capturing moral distress in paediatric oncology.


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Af Sandeberg M; Bartholdson C; Pergert P, “Important situations that capture moral distress in paediatric oncology,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed October 4, 2023,