Nursing Ethics And Malpractice

INTRODUCTION
In every nurse\'s career, the
nurse is faced with many legal or ethical dilemmas. One of the professional
competencies for nursing states that nurses should " integrate knowledge of
ethical and legal aspects of health care and professional values into nursing
practice". It is important to know what types of dilemmas nurses may face
during their careers and how they may have been dealt with in the past. It
is also important for nurses to understand what malpractice is and how they
may protect themselves from a malpractice suit.

LAW VS. ETHICS
It is important
to first understand the difference between law and ethics. Ethics examines
the values and actions of people. Often times there is no one right course
of action when one is faced with an ethical dilemma. On the other hand, laws
are binding rules of conduct. When laws are broken, it is punishable by an
authority figure.
There are four types of situations that pertain to law
vs. ethics. The first would be an action that is both legal and ethical. An
example of this would be a nurse carrying out appropriate doctor\'s orders as
ordered. A nurse may also be faced with an action that may be ethical but
not legal, such as allowing a cancer patient to smoke marijuana for medicinal
purposes. The opposite may arise where an action may be legal but not ethical.
Finally, an action may be neither legal or ethical. For example, when a nurse
makes a medication error and does not report it.

ETHICAL DUTIES
Nurses
have many ethical duties to their clients. The main ethical duties are: nonmaleficence,
beneficence, fidelity, veracity, and justice.
The duty of nonmaleficence
is the duty to do no harm. The nurse first needs to ask him or herself what
harm is. When a nurse gives an injection she is causing the patient pain but
she is also preventing additional harm such as disease development or prolonged
pain. Therefore, the nurse must ask herself a second question about how much
harm should be tolerated.
The duty of beneficence is to do good. In a sense,
it is at the opposite end of nonmaleficence or at the positive end of the nonmaleficence
> beneficence continuum.
The duty of fidelity means to be faithful, or to
keep to your promises. Therefore, if a nurse tells his patient that he will
be back with her pain medication within fifteen minutes then he has an ethical
duty to follow through with what he has said.
Truth telling or, information
disclosure, is the principle behind the duty of veracity. The main argument
against information disclosure is that the disclosure of bad news may shatter
the patient\'s hope. Those in favor of information disclosure state that it
is part of the patient\'s rights to know what is happening and that patients
with potentially fatal illnesses are capable of handling the truth.
Their
are three types of justice: distributive justice, compensatory justice, and
procedural justice. Distributive justice concerns the comparative treatment
of individuals in the allotment of benefits and burdens (Purtilo, 1993). An
example in which a question of distributive justice may arise is when there
is a limited amount of federal grants and research money is needed for AIDS,
cancer, and many other deserving medical research projects. Compensatory justice
deals with the compensation for wrongs that have been done (Purtilo, 1993).
An example of this would be a jury awarding a victim money based on pain and
suffering from medical malpractice.
Finally, procedural justice deals with
ordering something in a "fair" manner (Purtilo, 1993). An example would be
the process in which people are eligible to receive organ transplants, the
sickest patients are at the top of the list.

ETHICAL RIGHTS
There are
three ethical rights that are relevant to health care. These rights are: the
right to life, autonomy, and health care.
Most people think of antiabortion
activists when they hear the phrase "right to life". However, this right goes
far beyond the boundaries of abortion. The idea of right to life has come
from both religious and philosophical backgrounds. Many hot topics in ethics
relate to the right to life. These topics include euthanasia and the discontinuation
of life support treatments.
The right to autonomy is also referred to as
the right of self-determination.
This right allows for the patient to make
their own decisions, such as: determining what course of treatment he may take
for a disease, refusing treatment, or refusing medications.
The right to
health care requires that a society shall provide the funding, personnel, and
facilities necessary to ensure that individuals have access to necessary health
care. Health care for everyone alsorelates to distributive justice.