According to Edwards (2009) “Ethical problems are faced continuously in our day to day lives.” He then goes on to discuss various examples of the types of ethical issues many individuals can face during a typical day, such as a homeless person asking for money for food and explains how this common dilemma has an ethical dimension to it that most ordinary people may not be aware of. When defining an ethical dilemma, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) (1997) bring a human element to the definition and explain how choices are made with the consideration personal feelings, principles, beliefs and personal opinion of what is good or bad within a situation (Jones, 2007). Nurses are faced with many more ethical problems on a day to day basis within health care environments than ordinary members of the community and the increasing variety of ethical issues that arise within modern nursing practice is why it is essential that nurses study law and ethics (Edwards, 2009).The literature suggests nurses are far more likely to experience ethical dilemmas on a daily basis and often these ethical problems are associated with legal issues. Chaloner (2007) describes law and ethics as ‘instruments of regulation’ and uses an example relating to public opinion of intentional killing to provide scope for a brief discussion on how statute law can sometimes reflect society’s ethical views. It is also imperative that registered nurses have a sound legal knowledge and understand the legal consequences of their actions (Dingwall, 2007) Chaloner (2007) believes that understanding ethics within nursing is essential to providing skilled nursing care in practice. The advances in modern medicine have directly affected the role of nurses and as a result nurses are now faced with decision making that may conflict their own moral values (Edwards, 2009). The study of ethics can enhance nursing practice by ensuring that nurses have the skills and knowledge to tackle ethical dilemmas and the study of ethics also helps to develop nurses own personal moral values and beliefs, ensuring that they are able to make ethical decisions with a higher quality of reasoning (Allmark, 2005). This assignment aims to explore the legal and ethical implications of covert medication administration based on an incident witnessed in practice and will conduct a critical analysis using Gibbs’ (1988) reflective cycle. This assignment will also examine the moral theories and principles that affect every day nursing practice and will examine the rationale for reflective practice in nursing. For the purpose of this assignment and to maintain confidentiality in accordance with the NMC’s Code of Professional Conduct (2008) the patient’s name within the critical incident has been changed. Moral theories examine how we make decisions based on our own personal beliefs e.g. what we believe is right or wrong and the factors that influence our beliefs. Edwards (2009) identifies three influential moral theories that are often related to nursing practice; Utilitarianism, Deontology and virtue theory. Utilitarianism theories were originally devised by J. Bentham [1748-1832] and J.S. Mill [1808-73]. Beauchamp & Childress (2008) describe utilitarianism as a consequence based theory and identify the main principle of this theory as utility, stating “This principle asserts that we ought always to produce the maximal balance of positive value over disvalue (or the least possible disvalue if only undesirable results can be achieved).”(P.341). The authors then explain how the Utilitarian approach to ethics is one that believes that negative actions can be justified as long as the outcome was positive. Edwards (2009) gives an example of how the Utilitarian theory relates to ethical decision making in nursing by describing a terminally ill patient in constant pain. Edwards (2009) then continues to discuss how the Utilitarian approach with regards to care for this patient would be...
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