Hospices consider themselves places that practise a holistic form of terminal care, encompassing physical and psychological symptoms, and also the social and spiritual support for a dying patient. So far, the underlying ethical principles have been treated predominantly in terms of a normative theoretical discussion. The interview study discussed in this paper is a qualitative investigation into general and hospice-related conceptions of morality among full-time and voluntary workers in German inpatient hospices. It examines moral conflicts and efforts leading to their solution. The main ideas identified include moral neutrality towards the patients and their requests, the capability of acceptance, the idea of self-restraint with respect to the dying patient and the principle of respect for the natural course of dying. Essential triggers for moral conflicts were the inadequate education of patients, problems of acceptance in view of incurable disease, and disagreements between members of patients' families. The interviewees expressed their scepticism towards formal institutions of ethical counselling. The study has shown a type of virtue ethics that forms an integral part of the overall concept of hospice care, which cannot be treated separately from a holistic idea of care at the end of life.
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Competing interests None declared.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the research ethics committee of the Medical Faculty at Ruhr University Bochum (Germany).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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