Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Ethical Principles in Nursing Practice

July 10, 2022

In health care, several common ethical principles are important for consideration when confronted with an ethical question. The first, most fundamental principle is respect for people. This principle leads us to view all human life as sacred, with each individual having inherent worth as a person. To the nurse, this principle means that no one person is more important than another; each patient has the same worth and is always entitled to respect. Autonomy is another ethical principle; it refers to freedom of personal choice, a right to be independent and make decisions freely. Frequently the patient may ask the nurse for opinions or assistance in making decisions. The nurse does not have the authority to make decisions for the patient. Beneficence means doing good or acting for someone’s good; this principle is one of primary importance to nurses. The nurse has an ethical duty to protect life and promote the well-being of all patients. Another ethical principle is nonmaleficence, which means to do no harm. It is paramount to nursing practice to act in the patient’s best interest and an ethical and legal duty to do nothing that has a harmful effect on the patient. Finally, there is the principle of justice, or the concept of what is fair. In the context of nursing, justice means that all patients have the same right to nursing interventions.

It is a great challenge to the nurse to balance these ethical principles when they seem in conflict. Rarely are options clear or black and white. Decisions often come down to choosing what seems more right and less wrong, more good and less bad.