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The Morality of Nursing Decisions


Nursing decisions are often debatable from the moral point of view. The patient’s wish and the medical necessity or a nurse’s morality may contradict each other and lead to negative consequences for both sides. Nurses’ decisions often have an irreversible impact on the patients’ health or lives and their moral integrity. Nurses must follow the moral code and have the goal of helping the patient in mind if a conflict of views arises.

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The Decision and its Consequences

The solution for moral dilemmas in nursing often comes through talking to the patients. They should be informed of the possible risks and outcomes of the situation and take a weighted decision. However, the issue often appears when the situation is critical and needs urgent actions or when the patient is unconscious or unable to make a decision (Savulescu & Schuklenk, 2017). Such a situation occurred in Ireland in the 1980s when physiology was performed for obstructed pregnancy instead of a Caesarean section because of the doctors’ Christian beliefs (Savulescu & Schuklenk, 2017). The doctors believed that a Caesarean section would obstruct the woman from having a maximum number of children in the future (Savulescu & Schuklenk, 2017). The most outrageous in this situation was the fact that the woman was completely unaware of such a doctor’s decision.

The operation was performed without the patient’s consent or any informing and led to terrible side effects for the woman. The barbaric splitting of the pubic symphysis was performed to clear the passage for the baby’s head, which caused incontinence, immense pain, and restricted mobility for the woman (Savulescu & Schuklenk, 2017). Not only did the doctor’s decision bring negative medical consequences, but it was economically consuming for the woman and socially reprehensible.

The Moral Code of Nurses

The Code of Ethics for Nurses helps to interpret the situation from the position of nursing professional duty. The conflict arises as several provisions in the code contradict each other. On the one hand, the nurse’s main commitment is to the patient (American Nurses Association, 2001). On the other hand, the nurse owes the same commitment to oneself as to others to preserve one’s integrity and safety (American Nurses Association, 2001). Thus, the personal beliefs of a nurse may often go against the wish of a patient. The question of valuing one’s considerations or the patient’s health stands. However, as nursing’s end goal is stated as improving the environment and serving the community, the priority should always be the patients’ health (Amiri et al., 2019). To achieve this objective, the patient should be aware of the actions and the treatment options and have the final say.

The contradiction of beliefs remains a debatable topic as it questions whose moral decision has a more significant ground. Strong personal positions of nurses can be used to promote particular policies or reforms and give pieces of advice but not to contradict the patient’s wish when they have no means to prevent it. Personal values should not govern the given treatment in the nursing field as it may lead to terrible implications.


It is essential to have values and reasons, especially in the medical field. Morals, ethical principles, or even religion, can define the person’s line of action and help to deal with stress. Nurses can still possess moral integrity and make choices of their value but not when they contradict their patients’ will. After all, a nursing degree does not give a person a higher moral status over other people.


American Nurses Association. (2001). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements. Silver Spring.

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Amiri, E., Ebrahimi, H., Vahidi, M., Asghari Jafarabadi, M., & Namdar Areshtanab, H. (2019). Relationship between nurses’ moral sensitivity and the quality of care. Nursing ethics, 26(4), 1265-1273. Web.

Savulescu, J., & Schuklenk, U. (2017). Doctors have no right to refuse medical assistance in dying, abortion, or contraception. Bioethics, 31(3), 162-170. Web.

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