The aim of the study was to report the results of a systematically conducted literature review of empirical studies about healthcare organizations' ethics and management or leadership issues. Electronic databases MEDLINE and CINAHL yielded 909 citations. After a two stage application of the inclusion and exclusion criteria 56 full-text articles were included in the review. No large research programs were identified. Most of the studies were in acute hospital settings from the 1990s onwards. The studies focused on ethical challenges, dilemmas in practice, employee moral distress and ethical climates or environments. Study samples typically consisted of healthcare practitioners, operational, executive and strategic managers. Data collection was mainly by questionnaires or interviews and most of the studies were descriptive, correlational and cross-sectional. There is need to develop conceptual clarity and a theoretical framework around the subject of organizational ethics and the breadth of the contexts and scope of the research needs to be increased.