BACKGROUND: Nurses experience stress and suffering when they care for critically ill and dying patients. Moral distress occurs when nurses are unable to translate their moral choices into moral action. In response to this stress, nurses may experience burnout. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the attitudes and perceptions of the nurses who were ordered by the court to provide long-term care for Baby K, a female child with anencephaly. METHOD: A questionnaire was developed to provide descriptive insight into the stress and distress the nurses experienced while caring for Baby K. RESULTS: Nurses caring for Baby K experienced stress and suffering. Although they felt supported and respected as nurses in their workplace, they felt conflict with the legal system. To compensate for feelings of powerlessness, the nurses simply put on a professional face and continued to provide care. They feared making mistakes, many felt guilty and angry, and all felt that they were not included in decision making. CONCLUSIONS: (1) Suffering among caregivers occurs and must be recognized, (2) measures must be taken to reduce the stress and distress of healthcare professionals as they provide care to patients who cannot recover, and (3) in addition to these measures, society must provide guidance to healthcare professionals, especially concerning the care of patients who are permanently unconscious.

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