Ethics and Legal implications

 

 

Introduction

Code of ethics for practicing nurses acts as guide in the nursing field to ensure that practicing nurses do what is right and the nurses are cautious when dealing with patients as well as their family members. It also acts as a guide for nurses to make the best and most viable decision when faced with ethical dilemmas, which is common in the nursing field. It also acts as a guide to ensure a healthy relationship with the patients and the other workers in the nursing field. Nurses are expected to fulfill the interests of the patient’s families, community members, and the larger society through provision of quality health care (ANA, 2015). In such cases, nurses are faced with ethical challenges that require the application of the code of ethics in handling them.

It is also notable that nurses should provide safe, competent, and ethical care, promote wellbeing and health while being accountable for all actions and decisions taken. However, in most cases nurses are faced with challenges that are hard to address. A good example is the case euthanasia, which might be regarded a right for patients based on the ethical code of autonomy in which the patients’ right to make decisions regarding their own lives should be respected. On the other hand, beneficence expects that nurses to be committed to improve the health of their patients while non-maleficence prevents nurses from causing harm to the patients through inflicting pain, incapacitating, causing offense, killing, depriving people, or causing suffering and pain (Pereira, 2011).In this case, nurses should be very intelligent to make a decision that will be justifiable ethically. This paper explores the issue of euthanasia and the problems it poses to the nurses.

 

Ethics: Euthanasia

            The topic of euthanasia is important to nursing because it causes controversy that might implicate the actions of the nurses. There are instances in which patients are under intense pain that can be eliminated through euthanasia. This is based on the fact that a nurse should promote wellbeing by preventing pain from the patient. This means that the nurse should do all she can to ensure that the patient is relived of pain. Further, there are patients who are suffering from chronic illnesses, are in intense pain, are aged (over 70 years), and their chance of survival is minimal. In this case, the nurse can consider alleviating the pain of the patient through euthanasia. However, this does not mean that the nurse should make the decision solely without the consent of the patient and also that of the family members(ANA, 2015). A nurse cannot on her own decide to remove life support machines from a dying patient before she dies unless he has obtained the consent of the close family members. Euthanasia is thus a good topic in nursing since it will enlighten nurses on the issues and know when they carry out the exercise without getting into legal issues.

            On the other hand, there are times in which a patient will consider euthanasia herself and thus request the nurse to do it. While some of the patients who consider euthanasia are critically or terminally ill, others are not. It is easy for patients to give up in life especially with long illnesses while not necessarily such illnesses are terminal. There are patients who would also give up on life simply because they have been readmitted to the hospitals severally. Others will give up on life as a result of intense pain even though such pain should not necessarily be long-term (Pereira, 2011). In such cases, the nurses consider the fact that patients have a right to make decisions regarding their lives. In fact, it is not possible to force a patient to a treatment process. Discussion about euthanasia would thus help nurses know how to handle similar cases that they face and also where to go for help.

Learning about euthanasia is not only important to nursing but also important to the public. This is because the nurse can enlighten the family members and public members who are not aware of euthanasia of its use. There are people who have never heard of assisted suicide. In this case, the public will be enlightened on the issue of mercy killing at times when a patient is undergoing prolonged and intense pain that cannot be relieved through any other medical process(Pereira, 2011). The public will also be enlightened on the benefits of euthanasia especially to prevent high and unaffordable bills for patients who are terminally ill and in their last days of their lives. This is so when the terminally ill patients are undergoing very expensive treatment processes that will not better their health or promote their wellbeing but would rather increase the costs to the family members. In this case, when the public (family members) are aware of euthanasia, they would consider it to save for future important things.

Legal Foundations

            While euthanasia is acceptable in most circumstances as the last resort when the nurse is relieving the patient of pain, it might lead to legal implications if not ethically considered. Nurses among other care practitioners should consider euthanasia as the last alternative to relieving pain after failure of all other possible treatment processes. If a nurse cannot ethically justify any carried out euthanasia, she will be held legally liable for the loss of a life. This is because among the major responsibilities of a nurse is to promote health. Additionally, even when the nurse can ethically justify euthanasia, she should ensure that she has obtained informed and written consent of the patient and the immediate family members. She should not only consider it a wise idea to terminate the life of a person and do it without his consent or that of his family members. Since in most cases patients who are subjected to euthanasia are critically ill and thus may not be able to make decisions about their lives, the nurse should consider a written consent from the close family members (ANA, 2015). For the case of a child for instance, the nurse can obtain the informed consent of the parents. This way, the nurse will be free of any legal issues filed against her.

            Euthanasia topic in the healthcare system ensures that nurses can carry out the process ethically. They are able to help patients make informed decisions regarding their lives especially for patients who consider ending their lives. They should not seem like they are waiting for a patient to suggest euthanasia and the next minute it is done. For the public, it ensures that the public members do not consider euthanasia the best way to end their problems. For instance, one should be depressed and think that he can propose euthanasia to his doctor. They will be aware of the circumstances under which euthanasia is acceptable.

            It is possible for nurses to be faced with issues that conflict their ethics with legal liabilities. A good example is a case in which I had to choose between the decision of a male patient and that of his wife. The patient was terminally ill, diagnosed with chronic cancer and he called me and his wife to talk about his decision to end his life. He was in intense pain and did not see the need of the expensive chemotherapies that were draining the family’s resources and would leave the wife in financial problems. I saw the sense in that and ethically, I was allowed to help him end his life. On the other hand, the wife was not ready to let him go and was optimistic that some technology would be sought and her husband will benefit from the new invented treatment. She threatened to sue me if I pushed on with the process. Even though my ethical standards allow me to relieve my patient of pain, I was faced with legal obligations. I had to hold on a bit longer in order to have the wife convinced that euthanasia was the best option. She eventually did and I carried on with the process.

Nurse Practice Act

My Nursing Practice Act is that my nursing practice can be revoked if I show incompetence in my practice by being a danger to the public or evidencing unsafe practice (Florida Board of Nursing, 2015). The act is important to the topic of euthanasia because it ensures that I do not threaten the public by killing the people I do not get along with. This is because if nurses were not regulated by a strict nursing act, it would be possible to hear of cases in which nurses revenge to their enemies by ending their lives when receiving treatment in hospitals. It ensures that nurses do not mix the nursing practice with personal issues or personal differences with the patients. A nurse who is not regulated can also decide to punish a patient by failing to relieve him of his pain through euthanasia if it is the best course of action.

Conclusion

Nursing is a field meant to improve the lives of people by alleviating pain through the best alternative. This can be through treatment or euthanasia. Nurses are regulated by code of ethics to ensure that when they consider euthanasia, it is ethically justifiable. Nurses should not only consider euthanasia simply because the patient proposes it. Even though they should respect the decision of patients pertaining the treatment offered, nurses should help patients make informed decisions concerning their lives. Nurses should also ensure that all their practices are free of legal implications.

 

 

References

ANA. (2015). End of Life Issues.Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/EthicsStandards/End-of-Life.

Florida Board of Nursing.(2015). Nursing Practice Act.Retrieved from http://floridasnursing.gov/.

Pereira, J. (2011). Legalizing Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide: The Illusion of Safeguards and Controls. Current Oncology, 18(2), 38-45.