The Ethical Dilemmas of Nursing

By Mason, E. A. [Janie] | Australian Health Review, February 2005 | Go to article overview

The Ethical Dilemmas of Nursing


Mason, E. A. [Janie], Australian Health Review


The ethical dilemmas of nursing Bioethics - a nursing perspective Megan-Jane Johnstone Churchill Livingstone, Sydney ISBN: 0 7295 3726 9. RRP: $60.50

OVER RECENT DECADES, the health consumer voice has risen in significance and receives considerable space in the popular media. No longer are patients, relatives of patients or ordinary citizens just silent witnesses to how services for health and illness are structured and managed. Health and illness care can no longer be regarded as solely the province of the industry its professionals, managers and bureaucrats.

Megan-Jane Johnstone's new, fourth edition of her popular Bioethics - a nursing perspective is therefore timely. It is up-to-date in the changing and demanding political economy of the Australian health care system and current in its bioethical discourse. This is an essential text for nurses, who comprise the biggest component of carers in the industry and are the only practitioners providing immediate face-to-face, twenty-four hour care. Now, more than ever before, nurses must be aware of the bioethical implications of their actions, decisions and non-decisions.

The availability of an ethics text directly related to nurses and their practice, written by a nurse and for nurses, answers much of this criticism. Johnstone's Bioethics - a nursing perspective has proven to be a winner since the first edition in 1989. She claims nursing is a 'moral activity', describes an ethical practice specific to nursing, and also relates the classical theoretical underpinning of ethical decision-making and practice to nursing. There is a serious, and mostly successful, attempt to relate ethical dilemma, values and decisions to nursing practices. The discussion of ways of deciding is good and relates to the workplace well. This is a most readable text. The case studies at the end of each chapter make for excellent discussion and mostly relate well to the 'real' every-day world of nurses. They are stories of the typical values and activities of nurses.

It is good to see recognition, so often denied, that there is no single universal ethical value or truth. The diversity of ethical values in Australian society should be accepted in order to move from the current monocultural to a multicultural health system. …

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