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The Michael Ramsey Centre for Anglican Studies promotes pioneering interdisciplinary research into the global Anglican tradition in all its depth and diversity. The Centre reflects the foundational and formative role of the Church of England in the history of Durham University, and the legacy of Durham’s scholar-bishops as embodied in the life and ministry of Michael Ramsey. The Centre is an inclusive community of distinguished researchers from a broad range of disciplines, and is committed to the highest standards of research and the deepest academic engagement with the theology, life, history and traditions of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Moral Injury and Covid-19

Revd Dr Brian Powers, Vann Fellow in Christianity and the Armed Forces

From Faith in the Midst of Violence: The Official Blog of the Vann Fellowship in Christianity and the Military at Durham University

In the past few years there has been an increased attention to instances of what seem to be moral injury in non-military contexts. Recently, papers presented in the moral injury group at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion have applied many of the findings and categorisations that we’ve developed for veterans to identify moral injury in contexts of policing, the legal system, and – perhaps most saliently at the moment – in healthcare.

Each of these contexts does have at least one important correlate with the military: people serving in each deal in high-stakes situations in which the consequences of poor decisions, whether morally deficient, due to inexperience or simple mistake, are life-ending or life-altering for other human beings. Jonathan Shay notably defined moral injury as present when there has been a “betrayal of what’s right by a person in a position of authority in a high-stakes situation.” Perhaps it can be said at the outset that professions that deal in such situations are potentially rife for moral trauma.

In the healthcare setting, the decisions about how to handle Covid-19 have, and will continue to have, significant moral impact on healthcare workers. As we’ve seen, the decisions made by nations at both macro and micro levels have significant consequences. In the UK, the initial decision to adopt a strategy that would achieve “herd immunity” had consequences for the spread of the virus within the country. The decision to clear out hospitals in anticipation of a wave of Covid-19 patients meant that treatments and interventions for non-Covid patients were inevitably postponed, likely to the detriment of those patients’ health. As the hospitals began to see those waves of Covid-19 patients arrive, public health officials and healthcare workers had to develop and enforce policies and rules that would govern the treatment of those patents.

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