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Papers of the Week

2022 Mar 20

J Health Commun

Sophocles’ and Moral Injury in the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Bayerle H, Ike J, Logan R, Parker R
J Health Commun. 2022 Mar 20:1-6.
PMID: 35311485.


Strong emotional responses of health-care professionals to the unusual stress of providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic may be consistent with the experience of moral injury. This term, originally used to explain the feelings of guilt, shame, and righteous anger resulting from trauma experienced by US soldiers who felt betrayed by their leaders in combat, has recently been applied to the experiences of health-care workers who know the right thing to do but lack the autonomy, latitude, or authority to do it.. Ancient Greek tragedy, which often communicates stories about moral challenges, can provide a fruitful context for communicating about this kind of traumatic experience. Sophocles' is particularly relevant for health care since it describes the psychological pain of a would-be caregiver who is ordered by a superior to deny care to someone suffering with chronic pain, providing a clear example of betrayal through failed leadership and lack of authority to do the right thing. A more detailed reading of Sophocles' demonstrates that it also describes the kind of moral distress that results from being forced to respond to an unsolvable ethical dilemma when there is no clear right thing to do or when doing the right thing requires violating personal moral values.