Commonly Used Ethical Terms

Many terms are used in the biomedical literature and reflect the growing attention to this important discipline. A good deal of the literature is involved with moral dilemmas that address matters of life and death. Often the terms ethical and moral are used interchangeably as they are in this module.

  • Ethical analysis – ability to apply ethical principles in a systematic approach to problems in health care.
  • Ethical dilemma – competing obligations with two or more options possible to resolve the situation. Depends on moral evaluation not solely on clinical skills or scientific judgment.
  • Moral courage – demonstrating the bravery and valor to address ethical problems found in the delivery of health care.
  • Moral distress – frustration from perceived powerlessness when unable to act ethically.
  • Moral sensitivity – ability of an individual to be aware of ethical issues.
  • Moral uncertainty – the question of whether a moral obligation exists and its scope.
  • Moral weakness – the situation when obligations and responsibilities point in one direction and personal inclinations in another.