The Mary Dilemma: Case Study on Moral Distress
The Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Journal published an article in late 2013 about the moral distress suffered by a Catholic nurse who witnessed the death of a newborn infant. The baby was allegedly starved to death in a neonatal intensive care unit at a Toronto hospital between 27 October and 22 November, presumably in 2012 or earlier. . .The Journal article does not disclose the names of the hospital or the people involved “for reasons of confidentiality”. . . While the Journal article raises very interesting questions from the perspective of freedom of conscience and religion for health care workers, it is prudent to withhold further comment on the allegations until it is clear what action, if any, will be undertaken by state authorities in the Province of Ontario.
Newborn infant starved to death in Toronto hospital
One of the nurses who was caring for her today looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “this is not right – if they took her home and didn’t feed her they would be charged – why is it okay for us to do this?”
Fr. Michael Della Penna, ofm* and Francisca Burg-Feret*
This paper begins with a case study describing the perspective of a Catholic nurse who experienced moral distress while observing the tragic death of a newborn infant named Baby Mary. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness and educate readers about the concept of moral distress and promote a greater understanding of the lived experience of Catholic health care providers who undergo this trauma. It also provides an analysis and some recommendations for practice that can help health care professionals make good ethical choices in difficult situations based on their faith.