Background: As a normative theory, care ethics has become widely theorized and accepted. However, there remains a lack of clarity in relation to its use in practice, and a care ethics framework for practice. Maternity care is fraught with ethical issues and care ethics may provide an avenue to enhance ethical sensitivity.
Aim: The purpose of this scoping review is to determine how care ethics is used amongst health professions, and to collate the information in data charts to create a care ethics framework and definition for midwifery practice.
Method: The scoping review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR) and Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) recommendations. The search was applied to the databases CINAHL, MEDLINE, PschInfo and Pubmed which were searched in September 2019 and again in July 2021. The inclusion criteria were guided by the mnemonic for search terms: Participants, Concept, and Context (PCC) and included variations of health care professionals, care ethics and utilization. The search was limited to qualitative studies published in English between 2010 and 2021. A data extraction tool was used to extract and synthesize data into categories. The articles were screened for eligibility by title, abstract and full text review, by two independent reviewers.
Ethical Considerations: The scoping review was guided by ethical conduct respecting authorship and referencing sources.
Results: Twelve of the initially identified 129 studies were included in the scoping review. Data synthesis yielded four categories of care ethics use by health professionals: relationship, context, attention to power and caring practices. In combination, the evidence forms a framework for care ethics use in midwifery practice.
Conclusion: Care ethics use by health professionals enhances ethical sensitivity. A framework and definition for care ethics for midwifery practice is proposed. This review will be of interest to midwives and other health practitioners seeking to enhance ethical sensitivity.