Wars, disasters, and epidemics affect millions of individuals every year. International non-governmental organizations respond to many of these crises and provide healthcare in settings ranging from a field hospital deployed after an earthquake, to a health clinic in a longstanding refugee camp, to a treatment center during an infectious disease outbreak. The primary focus of these activities is to save lives. However, inevitably, many patients cannot be saved. We undertook an interpretive description study to investigate humanitarian policy-maker and care providers’ experiences and perceptions of palliative care during humanitarian crises. In this paper, we report on interviews with 23 health professionals, 11 of whom also had experience as policy-makers within a humanitarian organization. We use the concept of moral experience as an analytic lens: participants’ experiences of values that they held to be important being realized or thwarted as they responded to the needs of patients who were dying or likely to die.
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