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ethics, longitudinal, neonates, parental decision making, research



  1. Ellenchild Pinch, Winifred J. EdD, RN
  2. Spielman, Margaret L. MEd, MSN, RN


Ethical issues for the parents of neonates in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have not been widely researched.A multistage, qualitative project explored 23 families' perceptions of moral conflict and ethical decision making related to the NICU experience. Through in-depth interviews and the use of content analysis at 4 years postdischarge, life goes on (the major theme) and three conceptual categories were identified as characterizations of this phase. This phase, combined with two earlier phases (predischarge and 6 months postdischarge), represents a clinical manifestation of Reich's Theory of Suffering and provides a framework for understanding the parents' ethical perspective. Strategies for nurses that will facilitate parental participation in ethical decision making are presented.