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We report the results of an investigation of nurses' and physicians' sensitivity to ethical dimensions of clinical practice. The sample consisted of 113 physicians working in general medical settings, 665 psychiatrists, 150 nurses working in general medical settings, and 145 nurses working in psychiatry. The instrument used was the Moral Sensitivity Questionnaire (MSQ), a self-reporting Likert-type questionnaire consisting of 30 assumptions related to moral sensitivity in health care practice. Each of these assumptions was categorized into a theoretical dimension of moral sensitivity: relational orientation, structuring moral meaning, expressing benevolence, modifying autonomy, experiencing moral conflict, and following the rules. Significant differences in responses were found between health care professionals from general medical settings and those working in psychiatry. The former agreed to a greater extent with the assumptions in the categories ‘meaning’ and ‘autonomy’ and to a lesser degree with the categories ‘benevolence’ and ‘conflict’. Moreover, those from the psychiatric sector agreed to a greater extent to the use of coercion if necessary. Significant differences were also found for some of the MSQ categories, between physicians and nurses, and between males and females.

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