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Dilemmas and Ethical Issues in Nursing You May Not Know About

Ethical Issues in Nursing
Just like any other industry, ethical issues in nursing have become a matter of concern for practitioners. Let's look into what these are.
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
People in every field are confronted with ethical issues of some sort. However, these issues become high in magnitude and extent when public officials are involved. An industry like health and medicine holds ethics in highest regard due to the involvement of human life.
Often, healthcare practitioners like doctors and nurses face ethical dilemmas in their professional lives. Although, they are often trained to manage issues of this kind, sometimes, such issues can have lasting impact on their professional and personal lives.

The general awareness among masses regarding their rights during a medical procedure often conflicts with the morals of this industry. Ethical issues in nursing industry are somewhat similar to those faced by physicians and other healthcare providers. Those in nursing practice may be more specific in nature.
Ethical Issues in Nursing Practice
Consent and Capacity
The Patient Bill of Right adopted by American Hospitals Association states that "a patient possesses the right to be informed of the medical consequences of his or her actions and decisions and refuse treatment to the extent permitted by the law". However, this is true only if the patient is in a position to understand the consequences of his treatment.
Incompetent, senile patients neither have the correct judgment regarding which treatment is appropriate for them, nor are they in a state of understanding the implications of their treatment. In such case, their willingness to grant or deny consent cannot dictate the course of treatment.
Even in case of mentally sound patients, the families of the patients often fail to understand that doctors and nurses are experts about their health than themselves. Denying consent to an effective treatment can cause a patient his life.
Such issues are becoming graver day by day as the population of ailing, aging individuals continue to rise. These individuals are often in a state where they cannot think for themselves and have no one to do it for them. The question that plagues a nurse is whether she should let the patient take a wrong decision, when she knows it's going to harm him/her.
Confidentiality and Autonomy
This is another ethical issue emerging from the conflict of patient's rights and professional ethics in nursing job and profession. The Patient Bill of Right makes it mandatory for the medical practitioners to reveal the form and extent of the ailment along with the course of treatment to be undertaken by the practitioners. However, this law of autonomy clashes with the nursing ethic that the professional should maintain high degree of confidentiality regarding the patient's health and treatment.
In certain situations, the patient and his family may not grasp the full consequence of the information provided by the nurse. This may unnecessarily lead to misunderstandings and panic. Although, there is no harm in informing most of the families, some of them are better kept in dark for the interest of patient. Sometimes even the patient is kept in dark for his own well-being.
Non-Compliance on Part of Patient
Oftentimes, some patients seek repeated treatments for the same condition again and again. They end up getting admitted in different hospitals for the same condition, without much improvement in health. More often than not, these treatments options are sought at the expense of taxpayers' money.
In normal circumstances, counseling the patient about a particular treatment would not be a problem, since every patient has a right to receive the best possible treatment. However, when the practitioner finds out that the issue is self-induced, his personal opinion may cloud his judgment regarding the treatment given to such a patient.

It is unfair to spend taxpayers' money for the treatment of an individual who knowingly inflicts damage upon his own health. This is one of the biggest ethical dilemmas faced by the nurse practitioners.