Nursing Ethics and Legal Dilemmas

Nurses are often faced with difficult issues when performing their professional duties. These issues arise as a result of controversies between the laws and ethics. At the present moment, these principles do not work together although they need to. Nurses have to make the decisions based on laws, but at the same time they should always think of the patients and apply ethics whenever it is possible.

First, it is important to stress that the well-being of the patient is the main regulator to determine the decisions regarding his or her treatment. Therefore, the nurses act in accordance with the patient’s needs because they try to provide these people with the best care possible that would improve their health and bring the most positive results in the medical process. It is essential for the nurses to treat all the patients equally despite their race or background; nurses can never be unprofessional because of their personal dislikes or preferences. Therefore, in case they do not want to work with the patient because of his or her skin color or other things, there are laws that regulate such a behavior and forbid discrimination in medical sphere. However, in the past, such discrimination was common, but it was a result of the federal laws which prevented the nurses from treating some patients. For instance, before the equality movements and democratic shifts inside the country, the black patients could not receive the same medical treatment as the white patients. In such a situation, the nurses were unable to take care of the patients because of the discriminatory laws. As a result, medical workers were victims of unjust laws and unresolved racial issues that existed in the country. The conflict was solved on the national level with black citizens as well as other minority groups getting the same rights as whites. That way, it became possible to treat the patients equally without any racial differences affecting this process; it showed that ethical stances could lead to legal transformations consequently.


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Nowadays, nurses still face some issues regarding ethics and laws because these two perspectives may be conflicting in particular situations. There are the main ethical principles or rules that help the nurse while performing his or her duties. They include respect for the other people such as patients and their families. Another ethical principle is beneficence which basically means doing good for the patients and always making the decisions in the best interests of the person being cured. This principle is closely connected to non-maleficence as nurses should never do harm and have to avoid any possible problems and issues they may be caused in relation to the patients with their professional behavior. The nurses have to be just and honest, and they have to have fidelity toward their profession, the patient, and the overall concept of helping others while being a medical worker.

All of these ethical principles are extremely important since they guide a nurse throughout his or her working process. There are also laws which support the workers and provide them with legal regulations of the professional duties. They regulate the education a nurse has to receive and the professional requirements she has to follow thus serving as a legal basis for the work. Therefore, they are an important part of nursing occupation and have a similar role to the ethics because they regulate and influence the performance of the nurses.

The laws are extremely important in the situations when the patients are dealing with the terminal illnesses or when there is a necessity to have an informed consent, and so on. This means that a patient has to consciously and willingly agree with a particular medical decision; unless he or she is incapable of doing so, this has to be done by a relative or other individual who can do this by law. The law requires the person signing the document to be conscious, agree with it voluntarily, and make the decision without the pressure of any other party. For example, a patient is unconscious and requires a particular operation to improve his or her health and well-being. Due to the patient’s state, the legal party has to sign the agreement to perform the operation which may save the person’s life in the current conditions. However, the legal’s religious affiliation prohibits any medical involvement and deems operations as such that opposes the religious principles. As a result, the person does not want to sign the required document and save the individual. In this case, a nurse faces a conflict between the ethics and the laws because the moral dictates saving the patient while the law clearly identifies the possible steps a medical worker may take. In case the legal does not want to cooperate and disagrees with signing the document, the nurse still has some options to change the situation. He or she may try to approach the legal as well as involve the doctor in the process in order to explain the importance of the operation, and so on. With the balanced and thoughtful explanation, it may be possible to convince the person to change his or her mind regarding the future of the patient. Another option is to determine whether the legal is the only individual who may decide the person’s fate and whether there are any other lawful ways to have the operation. However, in case the state’s laws prohibit conducting the operation, the nurse cannot perform it without the signature. It would contradict the ethics, but the law in this situation is more important and influential in the working process.

A similar situation may take place when a patient has died recently, and his or her organs can be used as some transplants and be donated to the sick patients who really need them. Depending on the state laws, the nurse may need a signature of the relatives to ensure that they are not against organ donation; otherwise, this procedure would be impossible. The nurse’s job is to convince the relatives that the donations are necessary and bring benefits for the people who badly need them; nevertheless, unless the relatives agree, the medics cannot donate the organs. The given examples show that although the ethics and laws may be conflicting sometimes and the ethics may appear more reasonable, the laws are the ones that determine the results of a particular situation, and the nurse cannot ignore that. The same applies to various research studies that may be controversial in terms of laws and ethics (Leuter et al., 2013).

The given laws are not prejudiced in nature, but they have many contradictions and can be harmful to the patients in particular situations. They do not take into consideration the human factor and the absence of ethics in the parties involved; they show the difficulties that arise in front of the nurses in terms of law and ethical matters (Lachman, 2012). It is especially difficult for the young practitioners who do not have that much of experience in the field and are often unaware of the many controversies in their future tasks (Park et al., 2012). As a result, these controversies often prevent nurses from meeting the ethical principles they want to operate with, and that is a challenge for the profession. Therefore, the laws should be transformed and improved so that the legal system and the ethics put the patients’ well-being on the first place. This way, it will be possible to operate the people who badly need it, and it will enable one to avoid some of the ethical conflicts that arise in the process. The work of nurses has to be regulated because it organizes the working process and provides the patients with significant amount of rights they are guaranteed whenever they are treated. Nevertheless, the laws also should not turn the nurses into victims of unreasonable regulations which prevent them from helping and saving people’s lives and working in accordance with both legal and ethical principles. It is essential for these principles to coexist in such a way that they do not exclude or oppose one another. It would improve and simplify the work of the nurses as well as protect the patients in various situations.

Henceforth, currently there are many dilemmas the nurses face because they are often torn between the ethics and the legal parts of their professional work. The ethics dictates the main principles according to which the nurses have to work while the laws determine the legal basis of them. This means that the laws and ethics have to work together in order to enable the nurses to perform their duties professionally and efficiently. At the moment, the laws and ethics often interfere with one another, and that has a negative impact on the profession as well as causes problems for the patients. It is essential to provide the nurses with more opportunities and freedom to influence the laws ensuring that they serve better and more effective purposes for the medical system. The laws have to be changed and improved so that the medical regulations bring positive results and simplify the work of the medical professionals for the benefits of the workers and the patients.

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