The ethical principles provide a foundation for nursing practice. Ethical principles are defined as basis for nurse’s decisions on consideration of consequences and of universal moral principles when making clinical judgments. The most fundamental of these principles is the respect for persons.
The primary and basic ethical principles are the following:
- Respect for autonomy
The secondary ethical principles that can be incorporated with the primary principles when interpreting ethical issues and making clinical decisions are the following:
RESPECT FOR PERSONS
According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), the most fundamental principle of professional behavior is the respect for persons. This principle not only applies to the clinical settings but to all life’s situations. This principle emphasizes that all people should treat others as a worthy individual. In nursing practice this principle should be simplified. Thus, respect for persons generally means respecting a client’s autonomy.
RESPECT FOR AUTONOMY
Respecting a client’s rights, values and choices is synonymous to respecting a person’s autonomy. Informed consent is a method that promotes and respects a person’s autonomy. For a client to make an autonomous decision and action, he or she must be offered enough information and options to make up his or her mind free of coercion or external and internal influences. In clinical settings, this is promoted by proving informed consent to the client.
Nonmaleficence means duty to do no harm. This is promoted by doing the following nursing interventions:
- Avoiding deliberate harm, risk of harm that occurs during the performance of nursing actions.
- Considering the degree of risk permissible.
- Determining whether the use of technological advances provides benefits that outweigh risks.
Beneficence is doing or active promotion of good. This is done by:
- Providing health benefits to the clients.
- Balancing the benefits and risks of harm.
- Considering how a client can be best helped.
Justice is the promotion of equity or fairness in every situation a nurse encounters. The following nursing implications promote justice:
- Ensuring fair allocation of resources. (example: appropriate staffing or mix of staff to all clients)
- Determining the order in which clients should be treated. (example: priority treatments for the clients in pain)
SECONDARY PRINCIPLES OF ETHICAL CONDUCT
Veracity – duty to tell the truth
Confidentiality – duty to respect privileged information
Fidelity – duty to keep promises