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Silva, M. and Ludwick, R. (May 14, 2002). Ethics Column: "Domestic Violence, Nurses, and Ethics: What Are the Links?" Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Available http://www.nursingworld.org/ojin/ethicol/ethics_8.htm
© 2002 Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Article published May 14, 2002
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, NURSES, AND ETHICS: WHAT ARE THE LINKS?
Mary Cipriano Silva, PhD, RN, FAAN Ruth Ludwick, PhD, RN, C Key words: domestic violence, ethics, feminist ethics, codes of ethics Throughout our world, violence confronts us daily. We hear about it on the news. We read about it in newspapers and on the Internet. We experience it subtly and overtly in all cultures and across nations in incidents ranging from ethnic slurs to hate crimes to violence carried out in the name of ideology. Such incidents of violence tend to be easily seen as they fall within the public domain. Less visible, however, but often more devastating, is the domestic violence that occurs within the family and often against women. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) (2001) notes in a summary of research done on four continents that as many as 20 to 50 percent of all women in the studies reported experiencing partner violence. Thus, Volume 7, Number 1 of OJIN focuses on this issue of violence. But what are the links among domestic violence, nurses, and ethics? Using illustrations from the articles in OJIN, we will analyze this question through the lens of three frameworks: (a) feminist ethics; (b) nonmaleficence and its supporting rules; and (c) codes of ethics for nurses. Feminist Ethics Various definitions of feminist ethics exist but, overall, they share a common theme: that systematic and ongoing oppression of women based primarily on gender is morally wrong. According to Choi (1999), "Feminist ethics addresses the gap in general well-being between large numbers of women and men in both industrial and developing countries" (p. 14). The gender issue, as well as the broader social context, is also noted by Volbrecht (2002): A feminist is a person who rejects the ways in which women and their experiences have been criticized, ignored, and devalued. A feminist also is someone who works to bring about the social changes necessary to promote more just relationships among women and men. Feminist ethics challenges perceived male biases in ethics, which have contributed to the devaluing of women’s moral experience and to the subordination of women. (p. 160) Closely related to the social changes noted by Volbrecht are the political processes needed to bring about desired changes for women, especially in health care. The relationship between the social and political processes has
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been noted by Silva and Kroeger-Mappes (1998). According to them, Feminine ethicists reveal the ways in which ethical theory has been and remains embedded in certain social structures and understandings, and in political institutions. According to feminine ethicists, an understanding of social and political forces is necessary to understand and alter any moral theory’s impact on and import for women. (p. 6) We have selected two articles in this issue of OJIN to address feminist ethics. In one part of her article, Draucker (2002) addresses intimate partner abuse as repeatable and increasing patterns of violence against women by men in their attempts to gain power. She notes that because this abuse occurs in a continuing relationship, or in a newly severed one, the perpetrator may have long-term access to the abused one. Furthermore, she acknowledges the many economic and sociological factors that contribute to domestic violence and then recommends, among other actions, that nurses advocate for policies that...
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