Legal & Ethical Issues in Nursing

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Legal & Ethical Issues in Nursing
Michelle R. Stelly

Term I: Writing Project


Mrs. VanIwaarden

Nurses are subject to a plethora of legal, ethical, and professional duties which can be very challenging. These duties are generally considered to be to respect a patient's confidentiality and autonomy and to recognize the duty of care that is owed to all patients. As nurses our duties are always professional, however there are legal implications if these duties are breached. We also must consider when it is okay as nurses to breach these duties and therefore ethical issues arise. Ethics is a set of moral and practical guidelines that influences nursing decisions big and small.

As nurses one of our main priorities is to advocate for our clients. An advocate is “one who expresses and defends the cause of another.” (Ramont 42) In the nursing profession we advocate to protect our client’s rights. A client’s rights can vary from being responsible for their own care and making choices and decisions in that care, having the right to a nurse-client relationship based on trust and respect, to the nurse being responsible in making sure that the client has all healthcare services at their finger tips to get their needs met. Nurses must be fully aware of the moral and legal rights of clients to self-determination, and must ensure that clients understand their treatment options and the nature and consequences of any treatments they are undergoing. A nurse must be an effective client advocate by expressing assertiveness and recognizing and understanding the rights and values of the client.

Nurses face legal and ethical challenges on a daily basis, many of which are directly related to legislative changes regarding confidentiality issues. Issues of confidentiality have been apart of ethical nursing for decades, but significant legal changes have defined a greater need to maintain confidentiality. The introduction of HIPAA in 1996 led to...
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