The knowledge of ethics and the subsequent theories that have evolved from it is paramount to the profession of nursing. These theories assist nurses with identifying potential problems and developing skills required to determine and justify decisions in given situations. Furthermore, they work to enhance and shape an individual’s ethical beliefs and values. There are a number of ethical theories that have been introduced throughout nursing including the widely agreed upon four; deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics and ethics of care. Of these four, the ethics of care theory is the strongest and most readily relatable to the profession of psychiatry and nursing while the three aforementioned ones are not. This essay is going to explain why the ethics of care theory is the most ready for use in psychiatric nursing practice today and what deontology, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics ultimately lack which would not make their implementation as useful.
Ethics of care is most commonly associated with psychologist Carol Gilligan, who, unlike the developers of the other three major theories, is not a philosopher. (Sobstyl, Week 5/Part 2). Her theory was developed as a response to Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral development theory which females tended to score differently on than males based on the diversity in their approach to situations. (Yeo, Page 58). A distinct moral theory that emphasizes the importance of responsibility, ethics of care is most concerned with the concept of the relationship rather than consequences or rules. Gilligan stated that girls and women would approach a dilemma in a more contextualized and narrative way whose primary focus was to resolve the details of a problem situation. Males, on the other hand, tend to subscribe to a concept known as “justice of care”. This approach is based on the application of more general abstract principles that do not consider the unique, and at times, differing circumstances that surround a case (Yeo, Page 59). Care ethics view human beings as interdependent entities who value caring relationships and recognize the moral value of emotional feelings. It focuses on virtues associated with care and views this as being a moral sentiment and response in the context of these relationships. This includes concepts such as compassion, empathy, loyalty, and sympathy. Care ethics encourages altruism in which to create a balance between care of self and care of others and is intended to guide a care-giver’s conduct and provide an ideal with which an individual could use to base a virtuous life on. (Discussion of care, feminist, relational ethics thread, Oct 4th/13). Care ethics seeks to maintain relationships by putting the well-being of both the care-giver and the care-receiver into context and promoting them within a network of social relations. The theory promotes caring, which is recognized as a skill and not inherent to a particular group of people (Sobstyl, Week 5/Part 2) and interdependence, both which were typically seen as being traditionally female characteristics. Throughout history, ethic theories generally subscribed to the masculine way of thinking wherein the results were viewed as more important than the process. Because of this, there were doubts that women were as morally developed as men, and trivialized concepts such as attentiveness and compassion in favour of autonomy, reason, and justice. This is where feminine ethics, the concept that has given rise to care ethics, plays a part and has brought to light the dimensions which would otherwise go unnoticed (Yeo, Page 63). By highlighting these that have not been visible in any of the other major theories, it allows for the possibility of alternate theories being formulated and discussed. This would then provide care-givers a stronger, more concise framework with which to guide ethical decision making.
Ethics of care is generally viewed as the antithesis of the deontological and utilitarian theories in that...
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