Ethical and Legal Issues in Nursing
Ethical and Legal Issues in Nursing
Nurses face various ethical and legal issues in the medical setting. As professionals, nurses must be aware of these legal and ethical issues when they occur. Nurses have a legal and ethical obligation to respond to these issues. Being a professional nurse requires a nurse to assess the pros and cons of different situations, but also to withhold their personal beliefs and listen and respect the beliefs and traditions of others. Legally Nursing implications require nurses to maintain licensure, obey state and federal laws and to remain within their scope of practice. Within these legal and ...view middle of the document...
While the hospital employs the nurse, the nurse is bound by the Code of Nursing Ethics. The nurse's responsibilities and obligations are to protect the patient.
As a nurse, you learn early in your schooling what it is to be a moral and ethical person. Personal and societal values can influence ethical decision making. One specific personal example that comes to mind is hospice care. Not everyone agrees that the care provided by hospice nurses is moral or ethical. At the age of sixteen, I watched hospice nurses provide palliative care for my mother. She went from a state of complete awareness to complete unconsciousness in a matter of about three days. This was hard to accept for a sixteen year old. I remember the nurses giving large amounts of morphine. I did not know at the time that this was, in a sense, speeding up her dying process. When I came to learn this later, I was mortified and blamed the nurses, not knowing that they were following orders from the doctor and wishes from my father who did not want her to suffer. This stayed with me for years, and I did not fully understand until I was shadowing a nurse on a hospice rotation. She explained to me when and why they do these things during palliative care. In retrospect, I would not have wanted them to treat her any other way, she ended up passing peacefully, and that is how she would have wanted to go. It is personal experiences like these that can affect decisions involving healthcare.
Steering away from a personal experience with hospice care, as a nurse, we have to remember that not everyone’s wishes are the same. Personal and societal values differ from person to person. Individual societies and cultures beliefs differ greatly. Some patients would like you to do everything possible to prolong their life while others would rather have palliative comfort care instead of exhausting every clinical avenue to prolong life. It is important from a nursing standpoint that we do not interject our bias on what we think should be done for a certain patient or what we think the families should or should not be doing. Nurses are there as a support system and to provide patients and families with the necessary information. Nurses are not there to provide a personal opinion during a very stressful time. There is a time and a place and nurses need to know that boundary. The inevitability of death must be faced by each human being during a lifetime of living and choosing, relying on culture, belief systems and existing social structures for guidance (Greipp, 1996).
The fundamental legal aspects discussed in the case studies involve advance directives, Negligence and malpractice. In the case of Marianne and her family, they face an end of life dilemma. Marianne has no advance directive to inform the family of her end of life wishes. An advance directive should be prepared in advance of when it will be needed. It is advisable for all adults to have one. Generally when a person is...