Nurses make legal and ethical decisions when caring for patients; decisions that need to be made carefully because the decisions could possibly change a patients' life. There are theories to explain how to problem solve ethically and the theories are not based on emotion (Guido, 2006). This paper will discuss the relationship between legal and ethical issues and ethical theories, examples will be provided.
Ethics can be described as principles and standards that are a guide to conduct used to elevate the standard of compliance (Judson & Harrison, 2010). Ethics is derived from the Greek word "ethos" ethics explains actions as right or wrong in respect to cultural principles and values. Moral values are personal beliefs that are intertwined with ethical actions and behaviors (Guido, 2006). Ethics, similar to values, are individualistic and they come from our experiences, culture and actions. While one's values or moral ethics may be different, the nurse's ability to conform to a patient's ethical behavior is important (The VA leads change toward Integrated Ethics approach, 2008).
The legal system was created to establish policies to protect the public (Judson & Harrison, 2010). The laws that are set can be changed when evidence suggests amendments are necessary. The relationship between law and ethics is apparent when discussing a patient's healthcare decision that goes against the norms or beliefs of the healthcare provider. An example would be the patient exercising his or her right to refuse treatment for a disease process that will result in imminent death, such as a patient in renal failure refusing dialysis (Guido, 2008). Shannon (2008) discussed the differences of legal and ethical decisions as "morally ordinary" and "extraordinary" treatment related to the provision of assisted nutrition and hydration, particularly for patients in a "permanent vegetative state" (p.894).
Metaethics is a nonnormative ethic...