Stan Crader

Author & Lecturer on Writing About Rural America

Moral Distress Scale

 

I was thinking. Don’t act like that’s a surprise. It’s something I catch myself doing in between episodes of “Office” and “Outsourced.” The notion of a moral distress scale was pin balling around in my mind. A moral distress scale is when someone addresses the disequilibrium that results after avoiding an ethically appropriate behavior.

Healthcare professionals frequently deal with this conundrum.  The question, is there a doctor in the house, is frequently met with those with the skills to help sinking low in their seats. Why?

Another example is when tempted to pick up a harmless looking hitchhiker but don’t do so. And then for the next few miles conjure up a long list of reasons for not offering assistance.

It didn’t used to be this way.

Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, “Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relationships, this creates an atmosphere of spiritual mediocrity that paralyzes man’s noblest impulses.” It seems we have reached a place where a person commits a spontaneous act of courage at his or her own risk.

Think about this, someone steals a gun, and during a subsequent criminal act uses the stolen weapon to shoot someone. The person from whom the gun was stolen could be held liable in civil court. Clear minds would hold that the shooter was responsible, but our legal system has made a sport of civil proceedings.

When I was growing up the playground equipment at the school was available all summer long. And if someone fell off the slide and needed stitches (me) they just ran home crying and their parents took them to the doctor. Now the swings are taken down and larger unmovable items are locked behind fences. What changed?

How often do you find yourself morally distressed, not doing something you feel you should because of a legal risk? The moral distress scale concept is ludicrous. The fact that it exists is not a good sign. As individuals we can’t change the world, but we can be courageous and do the right thing.

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