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The Ethics of Everyday Practice: Healthcare Environments as Moral Communities

Austin, Wendy PhD, RN


Traditional approaches to bioethics, that privilege impartiality and objectivity and that focus primarily on moral reasoning, are relatively silent on the moral habitability of healthcare environments. Nurses and others in “the trenches” of healthcare are increasingly voicing the need to address everyday ethical issues, interdisciplinary tensions, and systemic concerns, in addition to the ethics of high-profile medical cases. Attention to the institutional processes that shape and constrain ethical dialogue and practice is required. In this article, the call is made for a shift in thinking about ethics in healthcare.

Faculty of Nursing and the Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

Corresponding author: Wendy Austin, PhD, RN, 5–16 University Extension Centre, 8303 112th St, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2T4 (e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.