The Importance of Ethical Theories and Principles in Decision Making for Nurses; The Ethical Theory of utilitarianism, The Ethical Principle of Justice, and The Ethical Principle of Confidentiality.

Importance of Ethical Theories and Principles in Decision

This article is about the importance of ethical theories and principles in decision making for nurses. Study it to gain knowledge and apply it in nursing practice.

Introduction to the Importance of Ethical Theories and Principles in Decision Making for Nurses

In our jobs as nurses, we are placed in a variety of scenarios. Occasionally, we are tasked with caring for a patient who has a different set of views or values. Other times, we may find ourselves in a terrible circumstance and must make a seemingly impossible choice. When we find ourselves in these situations, we may rely on ethical ideas and principles to help us make the best judgments possible. The role of utilitarianism’s ethical theory and the ethical principles of fairness and autonomy in making healthcare choices is examined in this study.

The Ethical Theory of utilitarianism

What is the ethical theory of utilitarianism?

According to Butts & Rich (2016), utilitarianism is defined as the “effort to promote the greatest good…while causing the least amount of damage” (p. 17). In other words, although horrible things might happen, there is a better possibility that something good will happen. Utilitarianism received both its name and its clearest statement in the writings of English philosophers Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

The three fundamental assumptions of utilitarianism are as follows.

1. The Only Thing With True Intrinsic Value Is Pleasure or Happiness.

Utilitarianism takes its name from the word “utility,” which does not imply “useful” in this context but rather “pleasure” or “happiness.” To claim something has intrinsic worth is to indicate that it is valuable in and of itself. A world where this item exists, is owned, or is experienced is preferable than one where it does not (all other things being equal).

Intrinsic value is the polar opposite of instrumental value. When anything serves as a means to a goal, it is said to have instrumental value. A screwdriver, for example, has instrumental value to a carpenter; it is prized not for its own sake, but for what it can perform.

Now, Mill concedes that humans tend to value things other than pleasure and happiness for their own sake, such as health, beauty, and knowledge. He claims, however, that we never appreciate anything until we correlate it with pleasure or satisfaction.

As a result, we appreciate beauty because it is pleasing to the eye. We value knowledge because it helps us cope with the world in most cases, and so is connected to pleasure. We place a high value on love and friendship because they provide us joy and pleasure.

Pleasure and happiness, on the other hand, are unusual in that they are cherished only for their own sake. There is no need to provide any other reason to value them. It is preferable to be joyful rather than miserable. This is difficult to establish. However, this is what everyone believes. Mill considers happiness to be a collection of many different joys. That is why he combines the two notions.

2. Actions are correct in the sense that they promote pleasure, but incorrect in the sense that they cause unhappiness.

This is a contentious principle. It turns utilitarianism into a sort of consequentialism since it states that an action’s morality is determined by its effects. The better the activity is, the more enjoyment it brings to others who are influenced by it. So, all else being equal, presenting a gift to a group of children is preferable than providing a gift to a single kid. Likewise, saving two lives is preferable than saving one.

That may seem to be reasonable. However, the notion is divisive since many individuals believe that the purpose for an action determines its morality. They might argue that if you contribute $1,000 to charity to make a good impression on voters in an election, your deed is not as commendable as if you gave $50 to charity out of compassion or a feeling of obligation.

3. Everyone’s happiness is equally important.

This may seem to be a self-evident moral principle. But it was fairly radical when it was proposed by Bentham (in the form “everyone should count for one; no-one for more than one”). The principle of treating everyone equally is taken extremely seriously by utilitarians like Australian philosopher Peter Singer.

Singer claims that we have the same commitment to assist poor strangers in far-off countries as we have to help people in our own backyard. According some critics, this renders utilitarianism unrealistic and too demanding. However, in “Utilitarianism,” Mill responds to this critique by stating that the greatest way to achieve universal pleasure is for each individual to concentrate only on themselves and others around them.

In a hospital context, this ethical principle may be used in a number of scenarios.

It may assist in making healthcare choices when there isn’t a clear right or incorrect choice. For instance, if a patient has significant surgery, such as open-heart surgery, there is always the risk of complications, such as blood loss or death.

However, there are several advantages to undergoing the procedure, such as lowering the risk of a heart attack from coronary artery disease or replacing the heart’s valves to enable blood to flow freely. In this scenario, the benefits of the operation exceed the risks of undergoing it. As a result, proceeding with the surgery is ethical, according to utilitarianism philosophy.

The Ethical Principle of Justice

What is the ethical principle of justice?

The ethical concept of justice, according to St. Joseph’s University, is to provide fairness in all medical judgments. This might involve fairness in the allocation of limited resources or fairness in the treatment delivered (“How the Four Principles”, 2017). This ethical guideline is crucial to all nurses in order to give the same and best care for all their patients.

The relevance of ethics in a community nursing context is highlighted in an essay authored by Pope, Hough, & Chase (2016). (2016). They point out that one element of justice is that there are the same possibilities for everyone to have healthcare access. As nurses, we may apply justice in our profession by providing this care for everyone, regardless of their economic status or money.

For example, you have a patient who comes in seeking relief for chest discomfort that he has been having. While working with him, he notifies you that he does not have insurance to pay the cost of the appointment. According to the concept of fairness, you would treat this patient the same as any other patient who came in with the same condition, regardless of their capacity to pay for the services offered.

The Ethical Principle of Confidentiality

What is the ethical principle of confidentiality?

If patient privacy were to be compromised, then the ethical ideal of autonomy would be in contradiction. Autonomy, as described by Blais & Hayes (2016), is a person’s right to make choices for oneself (p. 60). (p. 60). This implies that patients have the right to make choices about the treatment that they will get. According to Shahriari, Mohammadi, Abbaszadeh, & Bahrami (2013), in order for patients to be autonomous in making these choices, the nurse must first offer them all the essential information that they need in order to make an informed decision (p. 7). (p. 7).

Importance of Ethical Theories and Principles in Decision
A nurse interviewing a patient whose identity has been kept secret.

However, another part of autonomy is that the patient has the freedom to select what information he/she wishes to share with others. When information is disseminated without the patient first providing consent, you take away that choice from them. In other words, their autonomy is taken away.

One example of this is presented by a nurse in New York. This nurse was working one day at the clinic when her sister-in-law’s boyfriend came up. The boyfriend was diagnosed with an STD and as the nurse found out, she quickly contacted the sister-in-law in order to let her know what was going on. She neglected to acquire consent from the boyfriend, making it a violation of confidentially.

When the boyfriend found out about the messages, he called the clinic, and then started to sue them. The nurse of course was sacked (Guglielmo, 2013). When this nurse opted to release that information without consent from the patient, she took away the patient’s choice, which in turn took away his autonomy.

Application of Ethical Theories and Principles to Course Content

How can ethical theories and principles be applied to course content?

As a new nurse, this course has taught me a lot about my position and all of the numerous areas that I need to be proficient in. Ethics is one of such domains. It is crucial to understand about ethics when it comes to nursing since, as nurses, we make a range of judgments that impact a number of different individuals. We need to base these judgments off of ethical ideas and concepts, not just to prevent ourselves from legal issues, but also to assist our patients have the greatest results possible.

Conclusion

In a summary, ethical ideas and concepts may assist us make judgments in the healthcare profession. By adopting the principle of utilitarianism, we may make tough judgments that do not appear to have a right or wrong solution. Through using the concepts of justice and autonomy, we can guarantee that our patients are getting the best treatment possible and that we are also respecting their preferences, beliefs and values.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What does the ethical theory of utilitarianism teach?

Importance of Ethical Theories and Principles in Decision
The Ethical Theory of utilitarianism

According to Butts & Rich (2016), utilitarianism is defined as the “effort to promote the greatest good…while causing the least amount of damage” (p. 17). In other words, although horrible things might happen, there is a better possibility that something good will happen.

2. What is the ethical principle of justice in healthcare?

The ethical concept of justice, according to St. Joseph’s University, is to provide fairness in all medical judgments. This might involve fairness in the allocation of limited resources or fairness in the treatment delivered (“How the Four Principles”, 2017). This ethical guideline is crucial to all nurses in order to give the same and best care for all their patients.

3. What is an example of autonomy in healthcare?

If patient privacy were to be compromised, then the ethical ideal of autonomy would be in contradiction. Autonomy, as described by Blais & Hayes (2016), is a person’s right to make choices for oneself (p. 60). (p. 60). This implies that patients have the right to make choices about the treatment that they will get.

 

Importance of Ethical Theories and Principles in Decision

 

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