Ethical Dilemma in Facing Death Situations


It is possible to state with certainty that individuals who work in clinical environments experience numerous ethical dilemmas, which are determined by the nature of their occupation as it directly influences people’s lives. Among these moral issues, the following could be exemplified as the most apparent: disclosure of the patient’s personal information, choice of the treatment plan and medication, complying with existing standards of caregiving, etc. However, there are situations, such as natural and artificial disasters, that impose much more challenging ethical dilemmas. The purpose of this essay is to answer the question: what is ethical in the situation where numerous people are facing death?

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

Ethical Standards Practiced by Nurses

To give the proposed question a proper context, it is essential to understand the moral code that is followed by nurses in standards clinical situations. Ganz t al. mention that “nurses are often confronted with ethical dilemmas where the nurse is expected to choose between unsatisfactory alternatives” (44). Therefore, a thorough ethical guide is needed. In their article, Wagner and Dahnke argue that in ordinary clinical circumstances, nurses should be guided by four core moral principles of medicine, which are the following: autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice (300). These principles allow resolving the majority of ethical dilemmas in nursing practice.

Extreme Situation and Moral Controversy

Nevertheless, it is not possible to predict in which particular situation a different set of moral rules will be needed. Wagner and Dahnke suggest that “making a life or death decision … runs counter to the moral intuition of most people and most nurses” (300). For example, in situations when natural or artificial disasters occur, it is not always possible to provide each sufferer of the disaster with a sufficient amount of medication, or sometimes even to give appropriate care and attention. Therefore, a moral controversy arises: how should a nurse act in a situation in which the life and death of numerous people depend on his or her decision, and there is a chance that some people will die as a result?

Ethical Perspective on Life and Death Decisions

In situations similar to those which are described in the previous section, when nursing resources (both in terms of medication and human resources) are limited, the utilitarian ethical principle, which states that “the greatest good for the greatest number of patients” should be provided, is applicable (Wagner & Dahnke 304). In other words, the needs of a particular patient could be sacrificed if the majority of patients would benefit from such a decision. It is apparent that the implementation of the utilitarian ethical theory can cause considerable moral distress for the nurse in such a situation, but he or she should understand that standard ethical principles are not applicable.


What conclusion could be drawn from this discussion? First of all, it is highly important to understand that the level of the nurse’s responsibility varies greatly depending on the situation. In the majority of cases, the principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice would serve as a reliable guide for the nursing professional’s decision-making. However, when resources are limited, and the life of numerous people depends on their actions, nurses face a very challenging ethical dilemma, which could be resolved by the use of the utilitarian ethical theory. It is apparent that this decision will most likely cause moral distress, but, in such situations, the greater good of saving the lives of the majority of people should be the primary ethical guide.

Works Cited

Ganz, Freda D., et al. “Nurse middle manager ethical dilemmas and moral distress.” Nursing Ethics, vol. 22, no. 1, 2015, pp. 43-51.

Wagner, Jacqueline M., and Michael D. Dahnke. “Nursing ethics and disaster triage: Applying utilitarian ethical theory.” Journal of Emergency Nursing, vol. 41, no. 4, 2015, pp. 300-306.

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More
Print Сite this

Cite this paper

Select style


StudyCorgi. (2021, June 20). Ethical Dilemma in Facing Death Situations. Retrieved from

Work Cited

"Ethical Dilemma in Facing Death Situations." StudyCorgi, 20 June 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Ethical Dilemma in Facing Death Situations." June 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Ethical Dilemma in Facing Death Situations." June 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Ethical Dilemma in Facing Death Situations." June 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Ethical Dilemma in Facing Death Situations'. 20 June.

Copy to clipboard

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.

Psst... Stuck with your
assignment? 😱
Psst... Stuck with your assignment? 😱
Do you need an essay to be done?
What type of assignment 📝 do you need?
How many pages (words) do you need? Let's see if we can help you!