Take time for dilemmas


Take time for dilemmas

The corona crisis causes serious dilemmas between our social relations and us. Take time for your colleague to deal with dilemmas. Most significant is the decision whether to allow a patient to go to Intensive care or give its place to another one. The decision to provide subsidy to duped entrepreneurs to alleviate immediate needs, while fearing fraud. Officials working on the street have to deal with the dilemma of having to enforce physically while having to keep a distance for their own health. For many citizens: Do I want to keep meeting my elderly parents or do I adjust to the policy of isolation of their nursing home? Many dilemmas are solved by protocols, which of course alleviates the problem of having to make the same assessment again and again. For example, the protocol of IC-doctors states that people who are older than 80, people with a disease and a bad prognosis as well as traffic victims in very bad conditions, are not be admitted to the IC anymore. However, when there’s no clear or an old protocol it’s wise to investigate dilemmas carefully when feelings, moral values, rules and laws are in conflict with each other. To avoid remorse afterward, but most of all to be able to explain drastic decisions to stakeholders: In our decision we seriously took into consideration the consequences for you.

Collective dilemma investigation

Investigating a dilemma can be done efficiently and effectively in 7 steps:

Step 1: What conflict do we confront: do we do this or that?

Step 2: Who are stakeholders? What rights and interests do they have?

Step 3: What are the facts? What do the laws and codes say? Do we need more information?

Step 4: State the arguments for both decisions. Welcome arguments of others.

Step 5: Weigh the arguments using professional values and laws, count the consequences and determine possible false excuses (empty arguments)

Step 6: Decide: which argument is decisive, but also what damage does my decision cause.   Determine how we can reduce the damage.

Step 7: Check: Morally and professionally, do I have a good feeling about this decision? If not, reconsider. If yes, implement it.


The decision is now provided with arguments and is explicable from professional responsibility and values. Collegial consultation supports professionals, generates courage to be critical and provides conviction to make difficult decisions. Moreover, clear protocols emerge. It’s good to know that every decision is provisional. When new information is available a decision can and needs to be reconsidered. In short, also in the current crisis, take your time to reflect; together with your colleagues.

Henk Bruning

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