Cynda Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN

Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN

Ethical quandaries at the end of life: Cultivating Moral Resilience


End of life care is fraught with ethical conflicts.  Across the lifespan — who decides?

What are the ethical boundaries of technology that can sustain life or prolong dying?

How do we provide ethically grounded relief of pain and suffering?

How do we navigate moral distress and claims of conscience in the care of dying people?

Ethical issues at the end of life are embedded in the decisions, behaviors and character of every person involved in the process. They are not separate from the intimate mystery of a life unfolding to its completion. Increasingly ethical conflicts threaten individual integrity and produce profound moral distress. This session will explore the contours of ethical issues at the end of life and examine common responses to them including moral distress. A vision for cultivating moral resilience will be offered.



Dr. Cynda Hylton Rushton is:

  • The inaugural Anne and George L. Bunting Professor of Clinical Ethics at the Johns Hopkins University.
  • A professor of nursing with a joint appointment in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics.
  • Founding member and core faculty of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.
  • Co-chair of the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Ethics Consultation Service.
  • Serves on the Board of Directors and Co-Chair of the Professional Education Committee of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC).

An internationally recognized expert in bioethics and palliative care, she shares her knowledge through clinical practice, teaching, research, consultation, and scholarship. Her scholarship focuses on palliative care, moral distress, and clinical suffering, as well as conceptual foundations of integrity, respect, trust, and compassion.

Prior appointments

  • Named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Executive Fellow (2006-2009).
  • Served on the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on increasing rates of organ donation.
  • Consultant to their project When Children Die.
  • Appointed the first Chair of the Maryland State Council on Quality Care at the End-of-Life
  • Recognized as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women
  • An American Academy of Nursing “Edgerunner.”

Dr. Rushton's current work

Her current work centers on using contemplative approaches to address the moral distress of clinicians and the integration of palliative care into the care of children with chronic pediatric diseases and the ethical issues faced by their clinicians.

Since 2003, she has collaborated with Roshi Joan Halifax as a core faculty of the Being With Dying Professional Training program of the Upaya Institute. She has provided retreats and workshops for clinicians to cultivate integrity, resilience and compassion in caring for dying people.