Ethical Issues in Nursing


The provision of healthcare is riddled with a myriad of challenges and issues revolving around the subject of ethics. Indeed, medical practitioners have to consider ethical principles in the provision of quality health care to the patients. One of the main ethical issues today is the end of life decision especially for critically ill patients. In this decision, several principles of ethics are considered in order to make the most ethical decision. This paper analyzes the ethical issue while discussing the application of ethical principles in solving the issue.  In addition, the incidence of conflicts and the resultant implications on the nursing profession are discussed.

Topic Articulated

The decision to end one’s life is a critical one that involves the input of both patient and their family. Indeed, mercy killing or euthanasia as commonly known is has always been a contentious issue because of the implication involved in the decision. On one hand, some people believe that it is better to leave the patient to die away slowly rather than ending their life immediately. On the other hand, however, others tend to be inclined to the notion that ending a patients live is important as it deprives them of the suffering of chronic diseases. The contention on the issues is mostly based on the different religious and moral views held by both patients and doctors. In other cases, the patient’s life support system is withdrawn thus leading to their abrupt death (Ulrich et al, 2010). That notwithstanding, the decision to either initiate or suspend mercy killing is an important ethical issues facing today’s world.

Topic Significance

Almost all countries have criminalized the act of mercy killing with a few exceptions. The basis for such legislations is based on the fact that the legalization of the same would lead to its misuse thus depriving patients of their rights to life. The significance of the topic as outlined is largely attributable to the sanctity of life and the right to life that is guaranteed for all citizens. In addition, the practicality of the nursing profession is that some patients will request that the process be initiated to rid them of pain. Ultimately therefore, nurses and other medical practitioners are bound to face the challenge in their day to day operations.

Ethical Principles

The issue of mercy killing intersects between several principles of ethics due to the holistic nature of the decision making process. One of the key ethical principles is beneficence which dictates doing good to others. In ending the life of patients that are in pain, the medical practitioners argue that they are doing good to the patients because they rid them of the pain that cripples chronic illnesses. Ideally, the medical practitioners can therefore be said to be beneficent to the patients. The code of ethics dictates that nurses and medical practitioners do good to patients in the course of their operations (Oberle & Hughes, 2011). In addition, the principle of nonmaleficence is also in practice as it dictates that nurses do no harm to the patients. In the end, the two principles of ethics are in conflict thus exposing the nurses to one of the hardest decisions in their careers.

Resolve Problem

In solution of the mercy killing issue, consideration must be given to the patient band their families. The doctor or medical practitioners must not assume the judge role to decide what is best for the patient. Indeed, regulations across the world dictates that the patient has a right to choose the choice of treatment to be accorded to them with the doctor only giving advice to them. In this respect, therefore, the patient has the right to choose their choice of treatment even if it means mercy killing. However, the decision by the patients must be notified to the families to avoid instances where the patients may make the decision based on desperation.

Relevance to Nursing Profession

The issue of mercy killing is highly relevant to the nursing profession because of the close relation that nurses have with patients. In the course of their operations, nurses are exposed to various pleas by patients to end their lives thus ridding them of pain. Moreover, this issue is considered immoral among some portions of religions due to the sanctity of life. It should be noted that nurses and other medical practitioners subscribe to some of these religious views and must be considered (Oberle & Hughes, 2011). Mercy killing is thus relevant to the nursing profession and a decision on the same is highly paramount.


Nurses, as all other medical practitioners, are bound by codes of ethics that revolve around basic ethics principles. In the course of their operations, nurses are confronted with decisions about the lives of the patients. In some cases, the issue of mercy killing may come up in the nurses’ careers thus confronting them with the hardest decisions of their careers. In making a decision, it is important to consider the principles of nonmaleficence and beneficence.



Oberle, K., & Hughes, D. (2011). Doctors’ and nurses’ perceptions of ethical problems in end‐of‐life decisions. Journal of advanced nursing, 33(6), 707-715.

Ulrich, C. M., Taylor, C., Soeken, K., O’Donnell, P., Farrar, A., Danis, M., & Grady, C. (2010). Everyday ethics: ethical issues and stress in nursing practice. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 66(11), 2510-2519.


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