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ethics, family, palliative nursing, relational ethics, suffering



  1. Wright, David RN, MSc(A)
  2. Brajtman, Susan RN, PhD
  3. Bitzas, Vasiliki RN, MSc(A), CHPCN(C)


The daily work of palliative care nurses, who strive to respond to suffering at the end of life, is emblematic of the moral dimension of nursing practice. Traditional "mainstream" bioethics can fall short in addressing the complex and contextual nature of experience-as-lived in palliative care. This article proposes relational ethics as an underlying framework to guide ethical palliative nursing practice. The themes of relational ethics are explored through discussion of mini case narratives, all derived from the first author's clinical practice as a novice palliative care nurse. It is suggested that adopting a relational ethics framework extends logically from palliative care nursing's established commitment to the disciplinary ideals of whole-person and family-centered care. The goal of this article is to stimulate reflection among palliative care nurses about the ethical nature of their everyday work and the fundamental role that relationships play in their practice.