Ethics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the distinction between right and wrong based on a body of knowledge, not just based on opinions.The behavior in accordance with customs or tradition, usually reflecting personal or religious beliefs is called morality. Ethical principles are the code that directs or govern nursing actions.

Ethical Principles

  • Autonomy – respect for an individual’s right to self-determination.
  • Nonmalifecence – the obligation to do or cause harm to another.
  • Beneficence – the duty to do good to others and to maintain an balance between benefits and harms; paternalism is an undesirable outcome of beneficence, in which the health care provider decides what is best for client and encourages the client to act against his or her own choices.
  • Justice – the equitable distribution of potential benefits and task determining the order in which client’s should be cared for.
  • Veracity – the obligation to tell the truth.
  • Fidelity – the duty to do what one has promised.

Values are beliefs and attitudes that may influence behavior and the process of decision making. Values clarification is the process of analyzing one’s own values to understand more completely what is truly important.

Ethical codes provide broad principles for determining and evaluating client care. These codes are not legally binding but, in most states, the board of nursing has authority to reprimand nurses for unprofessional conduct that results from violation of the ethical codes. Specific ethical codes are as follows.

  1. The Code for Nurses develop by the International Council of Nurses
  2. American Nurses Association Code of Ethics
  • The nurse, in all professional relationships, practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and uniqueness of every individual, unrestricted by considerations of social or economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of health problems.
  • The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.
  • The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the client.
  • The nurse is responsible and accountable for individual nursing practice and determines the appropriate delegation of tasks consistent with the nurse’s obligation to provide optimum patient care.
  • The nurse owe’s the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth.
  • The nurse participates in establishing, maintaining and improving health care environments and conditions of employment conducive to the provision of quality health care and consistent with the values of the profession through individual and collective action.
  • The nurse participate in the advancement of the profession through contributions to practice, education, administration, and knowledge development.
  • The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public in promoting community, national, international efforts to meet health needs.
  • The profession of nursing, as represented by associations and their members, is responsible for articulating nursing values, for maintaining the integrity of the profession and its practice, and for shaping social policy.

Ethical dilemma occurs when their is a conflict between two or more ethical principles. Their was no correct decision that exists. The nurse must make a choice between two alternatives that are equally unsatisfactory. Such dilemmas may occur as a result of differences in cultural and religious beliefs. Ethical reasoning is the process of thinking through what one should do in an orderly and systematic manner to provide justification for actions based on principles.

Advocate is the person who speaks up for the acts on the behalf of the client, protects the client’s right to make his or her own decisions, and upholds the principle of fidelity. An advocates represents the client’s viewpoint to others. An advocates avoids letting personal values influence advocacy for the client and support the client’s decision, even when it conflicts with his or her own preferences or choices.

Ethic committees take a multidisciplinary approach to facilitate dialogue regarding ethical dilemmas. These committees develop and establish policies and procedures to facilitate the prevention and resolution of dilemmas.


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