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Junior doctors and moral exploitation
  1. Joshua Parker
  1. Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joshua Parker, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester M23 9LT, UK; joshua.parker{at}


In this paper I argue that junior doctors are morally exploited. Moral exploitation occurs where an individual’s vulnerability is used to compel them to take on additional moral burdens. These might include additional moral responsibility, making weighty moral decisions and shouldering the consequent emotions. Key to the concept of exploitation is vulnerability and here I build on Rosalind McDougall’s work on the key roles of junior doctors to show how these leave them open to moral exploitation by restricting their reasonable options. I argue that there are a number of ways junior doctors are morally exploited. First, their seniors can leverage their position to force a junior to take on some discreet decision. More common is the second type of moral exploitation where rota gaps and staffing issues means junior doctors take on more than their fair share of the moral burdens of practice. Third, I discuss structural moral exploitation where the system offloads moral burdens onto healthcare professionals. Not every instance of exploitation is wrongful and so I conclude by exploring the ways that moral exploitation wrongs junior doctors.

  • general medicine / internal medicine
  • health workforce
  • clinical ethics
  • applied and professional ethics
  • ethics

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  • Contributors I am the sole author of the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.