TOP ETHICAL ISSUES IN NURSING

While a career in nursing is immensely fulfilling, it’s not without its share of
challenges. Regardless of their area of practice or accreditation, nurses face a
multitude of ethical dilemmas every day. Let’s take a closer look at what
ethics mean for today’s healthcare professionals, along with some of the
common ethical issues faced by nurses in today’s complex healthcare
settings.

A CLOSER LOOK AT ETHICS IN NURSING
While there’s no clear-cut right or wrong answer to the often life and death
ethical issues encountered by nurses, there is a set of principles upon which
ethical decision making is based. Regulatory mechanisms are aimed at
ensuring the highest standards of ethics. For example, the International
Council of Nurses’ ICN Code of Ethics asserts that, in addition to the core
responsibilities of promoting health, preventing illness and easing suffering, “a
respect for human rights, including cultural rights, the right to life and choice,
to dignity, and to be treated with respect,” is also an inherent part of the job.
While the code further dictates that “the nurse’s primary professional
responsibility is to people requiring nursing care,” it also specifies that nurses
not only render services to individuals, but also to families and communities.
This is a tall order when you factor in the many diversities represented in
society today.

COMMON ETHICAL DILEMMAS IN NURSING
So what are some of the most common ethical dilemmas nurses encounter on
the job? They include the following:

Patient Freedom Versus Nurse Control
Nurses are highly educated and therefore aware of the best clinical course of
action when one exists. But what happens when a patient rejects medical
advice and makes a decision that may result in less optimal outcomes? From
deciding whether or not a labor and delivery patient would benefit from pain
medication, to encouraging a patient to eat when they are refusing food,
nurses walk a fine line every day.
While nurses do not sign the Hippocratic Oath, they are stillbound by the
promise to devote themselves to the welfare of the patients committed to the
care, as well as to live up to the standards of the profession.
Reproductive Rights
The pro-choice vs. pro-life argument is an intensely personal one based on an
individual's core set of values and beliefs. If you are pro-life, can you support a

questions related to ethics and human rights are only expected to grow. blood transfusions – even lifesaving ones – are unacceptable. the nurse’s ultimate responsibility is to the patient. For example. Resource Management If a patient is in a medically futile. can you respect a patient’s choice to continue a pregnancy even if it threatens her own life? With more than 208 million pregnancies occurring worldwide every year . less stressful final days? Deciding what information will be shared – along with how and when to share it – can be a diffi cult part of a nurse’s responsibilities. this is information that minors do not want disclosed. as well as hospital policy.    patient’s right to an abortion? If you are pro-choice. the law requires disclosure of certain information to parents. in some cultures and religions. In this instance. While parents are tasked with diffi cult decisions too. A nurse’s attempts to explain the benefits of the procedure weighed against the risks of opting out can overstep the line. in the real world ethical issues do arise. even if sharing the information will cause harm? Is honesty always best? What if sparing a patient this information can promote happier. this poses another common ethical dilemma: does a patient have the right to know everything about their condition. Information Families will often choose to withhold truthful information to “protect” a patient from emotional distress. Certain religions forbid medical procedures which can mean the difference between life and death. At what point do you draw the line and redirect these resources to . pertaining to everything from stem cell research to genetic testing. Ethical issues related to privacy can also arise with minors. nurses can expect to be confronted with this ethical dilemma on any given shift. or is it their responsibility to do everything in their power to urge them toward a preventable action? As science continues its onward march. The Battle of Beliefs What is science-based. empirical knowledge to a nurse might be completely subjective to a patient with a particular set of religious or personal beliefs. The Minor Dilemma Working with children presents a unique set of ethical challenges. For nurses. Is it the nurse’s job to support the patient’s right to the decision. Not only must nurses consider the best interests of the patient. vegetative state. While they do have some basic rights to privacy. In many cases. but they must balance this against the wishes. families and physicians may be aligned in the ideal world. nurses benefit from an understanding of law. Honesty vs. While patients. the cost of maintenance is high. beliefs and values of a family.

GUIDANCE ALONG THE WAY While these ethical dilemmas are an inherent part of the nursing profession. When people think of who it is taking care of them and making them better they specifically think of Doctors and Nurses. hospitals have their own ethics committees where nurses can voice their concerns and gain access to helpful resources. year after year they receive the highest ratings from the American public in terms of honesty and ethical standards – besting medical doctors. no resource is poorly spent. http://elearning. As Doctors and more specifically Registered Nurses it is their duty to have a client’s best interest in mind and always act in their benefit. The American Nursing Association (ANA) offers ethics and human rights position statements on everything from DNRs to capital punishment to aid nurses in addressing specific ethical challenges. Furthermore.90/page! ORDER NOW . when it comes to clinging to hope for the survival of a loved one. police offi cers and members of the clergy.loyno. This trust not only comes with great responsibility. pharmacists. Ultimately. Nurses are charged with maintaining a “big picture” perspective while simultaneously dealing with intensely personal situations on a day to day basis. nurses are a highly valued part of the healthcare system because they care. In fact. This raises the question.edu/masters-nursing-degree-online/resource/ethical-issues-innursing Ethical Theories of Nursing Essay When a person meets the unfortunate circumstance of being admitted to a hospital for an illness they are depending on healthcare personnel to have their best interest in mind and make them better. nurses aren’t without access to help. what guides Nurses to maintain this mindset of always putting the patient first? The Improve your academic results! We will write a custom essay sample on Ethical Theories of Nursing or any similar topic specifically for you for only $12.patients for whom they could be truly life-saving? How do you balance what may be perceived as a financial decision against what is an entirely personal decision to a grieving family? After all. but remains the bedrock upon which the American healthcare system is built.

Autonomy refers to the patients’ own rights to make decisions about their healthcare. and truthful to patient and encompassing the idea of being a patient advocate. Teleology . health. meaning every nurse is guided by ethical theories and principles which help guide them as a patient advocate. values or beliefs onto the patient. Ethical Relativism. para. being either physical.d. The ethical principles of nursing are Autonomy. Informed consent. This means the nurse would have to resist the urge to interject his or her own feelings. emotiona. Three elements involved in informed consent are Informed. What this means is the patient has all the accurate information. Integrity. para. In order to better understand how these theories and principles shape the practice of nursing you must better understand what they mean. and Justice and equity.. the nurse. Justice. Fidelity is synonymous with faithfulness and is therefore achieved by remaining loyal. 2009). Nurses apply this principle by not causing injury . This means giving truthful information about the . Virtue ethics. they are in a stable and competent mindset to make the decision. Paternalism is a negative principle of nursing and is implied when a nurse does not respect the patients’ right to autonomy by making decisions for the patient because he or she thinks she knows what’s best for that patient (Sliva & Ludwick. 2). or financial (“Ethical Principles. Deontology. it is referring to always doing what is beneficial to the patient and therefore in their best interest (Silva & Ludwick. In nursing it is a duty to disclose pertinent information and the obligation to respect confidentiality at the same time. Beneficence. A brief description of some of these terms will be given before their influence on nurses is discussed. psychological. Nonmaleficence literally translates to “do no harm” and is a concept that originated from the Hippocratic Oath. An example of fidelity would be keeping a promise to a patient of coming back to check on them even if they become slammed with a heavy workload. or other team members.. 1999). 1999). Privacy and Confidentiality is relating to maintaining the security of a patient’s information and only sharing that information on a need-to-know basis with other healthcare members involved with that patients care and act to prevent breaches of confidentiality. Some ethical theories that influence nursing practice are Consequentialism.d. Veracity as a word is associated with truthfulness.” n. Beneficence is very simple. 16). Veracity. This principle was made more evident with the passing of the Patient Self Determination Act by Congress in 1990 (“Ethical Principles. Paternalism. as well as Privacy and confidentiality. and Voluntary. Justice is simply referring to fairness and equality. This means that accurate information must be provided to the patient in order to make an informed decision. In order to properly understand the ethical theories of nursing one must first know what the core ethical principles and theories in nursing are. It is these ethics that make a nurse so valuable to clients and ultimately makes a nurse the client’s best advocate. Utilitarianism theory. fair.” n. and lives without the interference from healthcare personnel such as the physician. and that they are voluntarily making the decision. T his principle also involves taking actions to help benefit others and prevent both physical and mental harm of the patient. In this paper the core ethical theories and principles will be discussed and how exactly this helps RN’s be the best possible advocate and what benefits the clients themselves derive from these ethical theories.answer is their ethical duty. It is applied to healthcare by providing equitable access to nursing care. To a layperson some of these words may make sense and others may not. Fidelity. Competent. Informed consent is directly related to autonomy in the fact that it allows the patient to make an informed decision about their treatment (Daly. Nonmaleficence.

Ethical Relativism. Teleology. Right and wrong is not definite in most cases as there are no absolute truths. Virtue ethics. 2011). As mentioned earlier some of the Ethical theories are Consequentialism. as well as how to apply them. Ethical relativism takes into account for the variability in what is considered to be normal or acceptable to any given culture. and duties. being pain or symptom free. and culture. Since with this theory it is the motives of the actor that determine the value of the act a bad outcome may be acceptable if the intent of the actor was good.. and how it benefits the patient. Consequentialist ethics refers to the idea that the correct moral response is always going to be related to the outcome. On the back side of this theory there is a criticism in healthcare that applying a strictly deontological approach to healthcare can lead to conflicts of interest between equally entitled individuals which can be difficult or even seemingly impossible to resolve (“Ethical Theories. Deontology.risks of a procedure while still respecting the patient’s confidentiality. even if doing so causes a less desirable outcome. para. While there are no universal truths in ethical relativism there are few topics that are not open to debate. seems simple enough to understand as the word “consequence” is evident.d. is right. This theory is placing more value on the intentions of the individual as opposed to the actual outcome of any action. Deontology is simply following the moral theory of doing unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Although this theory has been largely rejected it is still valuable for a nurse to consider when caring for . para. The actual ‘good’ that is being referred to can be expressed in numerous ways such as referring to values such as happiness. Consequentialism. such as incest (American Nurses Association. with teleology it is the outcome that determines whether the act is good or of value and that achievement of a good outcome justifies using a less desirable means to attain the end. This idea can also be thought of in a way that if a decision must be made it would be wisest to make the decision with the central aim of doing the maximum amount of greatest good for the greatest number of people. or consequence. Whereas with deontology it is the intent of the decision made that determines the value as opposed to the outcome. place. or another life enhancing outcome (“Ethical Theories. It is pivotal for nurses because it will ensure that they are preforming their jobs and duties with the highest regard to patient advocacy and maintain the ethics which nursing is based on. and Justice and equity. In order to follow the theory of deontology it requires absolute adherence to these obligations and acting from duty is viewed as acting ethically. this is referring back to the theory of doing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. ” n. There can be a backside to this theory however which can cause acts that would be contrary to the rights of individuals if the end result is one that would improve care for many others. What this is saying is that every culture has their own set of norms and therefore certain behaviors that may be acceptable in one culture may not be acceptable in others. of the act.d. 2).” n. obligations. also referred to as utilitarianism. These are the main principles of ethics as far as it pertains to nursing and knowing this information is vital to understanding ethical theorie s and how to better apply them as a practicing nurse. time. The nurse must take on the fact that whatever a person thinks is right. It is important for Nurses to understand the definition of each of these. It also focuses on rules. Teleology is a theory that is opposite to deontology in a sense. 4). An ethical person must always follow the rules. A nurse must keep in mind that ethical standards are relative to person.

com stud . A nurse who knows the ethical theories and furthermore applies them in the field will have better client outcomes and prevent errors that can cause harm to a client in any way shape or form. it refers to being fair and equal to all patients no matter their socioeconomic status or resources at their disposal. These character traits will. This theory. Justice and equity is simple. in turn. This ethical theory is meant to protect the less privileged people in society and give them access to fair and equal healthcare access without bias from the healthcare members caring for them.their patients. allow a person to make the correct decisions later on in life. If a nurse is better educated on the culture of their client and what is considered normal or taboo they will be better equipped to provide excellent care in that persons eyes without infringing on their culture or having a biased opinion of them. including both the advantaged and disadvantaged groups in society. Virtue theorists also emphasize the need for people to learn how to break bad habits of character. This is an essential process of becoming a nurse as nobody is perfect and allowing oneself to be open minded about change will allow them to be the best nurse possible.From StudyMoose. Virtue ethics is different from other ethical theories in that it places much less emphasis on which rules people should follow and instead focuses on helping people develop good character traits. focuses on the healthcare provider and asking them to learn good habits while breaking bad habits in order to predispose them to making the correct decision automatically while providing care to their clients. Ethical Theories of Nursing Essay . These theories truly help protect not only the patients being cared for but also the nurses caring for those patients. These are called vices and stand in the way of becoming a good person. The theory states that a “veil of ignorance” should be worn regarding who is affected by a decision and should be used by all decision makers because it allows for unbiased decision making. while having the patients best interest in mind. such as kindness and generosity. such as greed or anger. This theory is in place to protect those less fortunate people and is essential to all of society to keep the balance and fairness when it comes to healthcare. It requires the nurse to take a look at his or herself and make judgments on their character and work to change whatever is deemed unethical about themselves for the gre ater good of their patients. Now that all of the ethical principles have been defined it is easier to make sense of how the ethical theories came about for our healthcare system and all the members of the healthcare team taking care of the patients. It is essential of nurses to be well versed in the ethical principles and even more so in ethical theories to help guide them in their decision making when caring for clients. An ethical person should choose the action that is fair to all. It is essential for these theories to be understood and applied by nurses all across the world in order to attain the best results for patients and the future of our healthcare system.