Ethical Issues in Nursing

Ethical Issues in Nursing

Ethical Issues in Nursing

Ethical Issues in Nursing


This is the first book to take nursing ethics beyond stock 'moral concepts' to a critical examination of the fundamental assumptions underlying the very nature of nursing. It takes as its point of departure the difficulties nurses experience practising within the confines of a biomedical model of health and illness and a hierarchical, technocratic health care system. The contributors go on to deal openly and honestly with controversial issues faced by nurses, such as euthanasia and HIV.


Applied Ethics is now acknowledged as a field of study in its own right. Much of its recent development has resulted from rethinking traditional medical ethics in the light of new moral problems arising out of advances in medical science and technology. Applied philosophers, ethicists and lawyers have devoted considerable energy to exploring the dilemmas emerging from modern health care practices and their effects on the practitioner-patient relationship.

But the point can be generalised. Even in health care, ethical dilemmas are not confined to medical practitioners but also arise in the practice of, for example, nursing. Studies of ethical issues in nursing, such as those contained in this book, have a vital role to play as nurse education and nursing practice change in parallel to new conceptions of health care delivery. Beyond health care, other groups are beginning to think critically about the kind of service they offer and about the nature of the relationship between provider and recipient. In many areas of life, social, political and technological changes have challenged traditional ideas of practice.

One visible sign of these developments has been the proliferation of codes of ethics, or of professional conduct. The drafting of such a code provides an opportunity for professionals to examine the nature and goals of their work, and offers information to others about what can be expected from them. If a code has a disciplinary function, it may even offer protection to members of the public.

But is the existence of such a code itself a criterion of a profession? What exactly is a profession? Can a group acquire professional status, and if so, how? Does the label 'professional' have implications, from a moral point of view, for acceptable behaviour, and if so how far do they extend? . . .

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