Nursing ethics are the major basis of nurses in making moral judgments on certain situations. It emphasizes on nurses’ relationships with their patients, on collaborative care, human rights, morality and dignity. Ethics in nursing is focused on the standards of nurses’ behavior as professionals, the right and wrong conducts in nursing procedures and responsibilities. Nursing ethics are very much intertwined with medical ethics, but they also differ at some points. In this article, we will discuss the primary principles of nursing ethics.
Nonmaleficence. Nonmaleficence practically means “to do no harm”. This principle is drawn out from the Hippocratic Oath itself. It is derived from the old Latin axiom, “primum non nocere”. In nursing, this means that procedures which might harm the patient should not be pursued.
Beneficence. The principle of beneficence means doing good for the benefit and well-being of others. In nursing, this means that nursing procedures should be conducted in order to serve the best interest of the patients.
Autonomy. This principle respects the right of people to decide what is good for themselves. For example, a nurse is not entitled to force a patient to take in a medication which he or she has refused. Instead, the nurse is obliged to know the root cause of the refusal and provide proper education to the patient. In case an able patient decides to refuse medication even after enough information is given, the nurse can do nothing more but document the refusal and report to the prescribing physician.
Veracity. Veracity requires a nurse to tell the truth but with limitations. Truth-telling is limited if the information can harm a patient or impede his road to recovery. Another dilemma in veracity is when a family asks the health team not to disclose any information to the patient especially in the case of terminally ill patients, or when a patient asks the health team not to inform his family of his real condition. Either way, a nurse has to choose what is best for the patient and discuss this with the health team.
Confidentiality. All the interactions between the patient and the health team are considered confidential. A nurse has the responsibility to keep in confidentiality all the procedures especially sensitive information which could harm the patient’s reputation.
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