End-of-life Healthcare Ethics

Research Team

Research Leader:

Dr. Joan McCarthy; j.mccarthy@ucc.ie

Research Members:

Dr. Tom Andrews; t.andrews@ucc.ie

Caroline Dalton-O’Connor; c.doconnor@ucc.ie

Aims & Objectives


To develop excellence in research related to the ethical challenges that arise in the treatment and care of dying patients and their families.

Specific Objectives:

  1. To engage in research that supports ethically and legally sound clinical practice in end-of-life treatment and care and enhances patients’, families’ and health workers’ experiences of death and dying

  2. To conduct research that contributes to improving the organisational culture of healthcare institutions  in the delivery of quality end-of-life care

  3. To build local, national and international networks in order to share knowledge and establish collaborative research projects and programmes.

Research Interests

  • Ethical Decision-making Frameworks

  • Moral Distress

  • Nurses’ Practices in End-of-Life Care

  • Patient Autonomy

  • Withholding and withdrawing treatment

  •  Breaking Bad News

  • Pain Management

  • Clinical Ethics

  • Social Justice

  • Nursing Ethics

  • Feminist Ethics

  • End of life care and its impact on those with an intellectual disability

  • The role of carers in supporting people with an intellectual disability at end of life

Research Students

PhD Students

  • Caroline Dalton-O’Connor- Decision making in end -of-life care for people with an intellectual disability and their families: Nurses’ perspectives

  • Rick Deady - ‘Moral shielding’: A grounded theory of moral integrity maintenance within multidisciplinary teams.

Research Projects


Project Title: Ethical Framework for End-of-Life Care 

Researchers: Dr. Joan McCarthy (PI); Dr. Mary Donnelly (Faculty of Law, UCC); Dr. Dolores Dooley (RCSI); Dr. Louise Campbell, NUI Galway; Prof. David Smith (RCSI); Dr. Christina Quinlan (DCU); Dr. Catherine O’Neill (RCSI); John Weafer and Assoc.; Mark Loughrey (UCC), Anna O’Riordan (UCC).

Funding Body: Hospice Friendly Hospitals Programme, Irish Hospice Foundation

Start/End Dates: 01/08/2007- 31/12/2011

Award Amount: €193,090


Topic: Nurses Decision-Making Practices at the End of Life in the ICU: a cross cultural perspective

Researchers: Dr. Joan McCarthy and Dr. Tom Andrews

Funding: €6,000 (Irish element)

Research Partners: Dr. Ann Gallagher, School of Health and Social Care, University of Surrey, UK; Dr. Helen Kohlen, Vallendar University, Germany; Dr. Regina Bousso, University of Sao Paulo.

Funding Agency: Irish Hospice Foundation

Research Publications


  • McCarthy J; Donnelly M; Dooley D; Campbell L; Smith D; (2011) End-of-Life Care: Ethics and Law. Cork: Cork University Press. 

  • Dooley D, McCarthy J (2012) Nursing Ethics: Irish Cases and Concerns 2nd Edition . Dublin : Gill and MacMillan. 

Peer Reviewed Journals

  • McCarthy J, Weafer J and Loughrey M (2010) 'Irish views on death and dying: a national survey.' Journal of Medical Ethics, 36 :454-458. 

  • McCarthy J (2010) 'Moral instability: the upsides for nursing practice.' International Journal of Nursing Philosophy, 11: 127-135. 

  • Deady R, McCarthy J (2010) 'A study of the situations, features, and coping mechanisms experienced by Irish psychiatric nurses experiencing moral distress'. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 46: 209-220. 

  • McCarthy, J, Deady, R; (2008) 'Moral distress reconsidered'. Nursing Ethics, 15 :254-262. 

  • McCarthy J, Murphy S, Loughrey M (2008) 'Gender and power: The Irish hysterectomy scandal,'  Nursing Ethics, 15: 643-655. 

Other Journals

  • McCarthy J (2011) 'Making Tough Decisions at the End of Life.' FEASA Newsletter of the All-Ireland Gerontological Nurses Association 1 (3): 21-22. 

  • McCarthy J, Loughrey M, Weafer J, Dooley, D (2009) 'Conversations with the Irish Public about Death and Dying.' Studies 98 (392):457-472. 

Recent Conference Contributions

  • McCarthy (2012) Moral Distress: what is is and why it matters, [Plenary speaker] 13th ICNE International Nursing Ethics Conference, Kusadasi, Turkey, 4-6 October

  • McCarthy J (2012) Care Planning in Nursing Homes: Ethical Considerations,  [Invited speaker], Irish Association of Palliative Care Annual Conference, Dublin , 16 November. 

  • McCarthy J, Andrews T (2012) Nurses' Decision-Making Practices at the End of LIfe in the ICU: An Irish Perspective 13th ICNE International Nursing Ethics Conference, Kusadasi, Turkey, 4-6 October. 

  • McCarthy, J (2011) Ethics and Decision-making in Dementia Care, [invited speaker] The Future of Dementia Care Conference, 12 October, Cork 

  • McCarthy, J (2011) Ethical challenges in end-of-life care: meeting diverse needs, 18th Annual Palliative Care Conference, Moving Points in Palliative Care Dublin

  • McCarthy, J (2011) Revisiting the Person with Dementia or the Demented Person, 12th ICNE International Nursing Ethics Conference, 9-12 September, University of Surrey,London

  • McCarthy, J (2010) Where 'Ought Meets Is': developing an Ethical Framework for End-of-Life Care, 11th ICNE International Nursing Ethics Conference, Turku, Finland

  • Gallagher A, McCarthy J (2010) Futlity in Oncology Settings 7th EONS Spring Convention, The Hague, The Netherlands, April

Published Reports

School of Nursing and Midwifery

Scoil an Altranais agus an Chnáimhseachais

Brookfield Health Sciences Complex University College Cork Ireland