Ethics in Nursing
The Oxford dictionary defines ethics as "a science of
human duty in its widest extent."
The Chambers describes it as "the science of morals,
that branch of philosophy which is concerned with human character and
Webster defines it as "the morals concerned with or
relating to what is right and wrong in matters of human behaviour."
A code is needed to educate and orient members of the
profession to distinguish desirable from the undesirable behaviours, to
regulate relationships with co-workers and clients, and to guide the public in
understanding professional conduct."
A group of nurses stated, "Ethics is knowledge and
attitudes that determine man's relationship to himself, to others and to the
Ethics is a science that endeavors to interpret the highest
standards of written or unwritten principles or doctrines or morals of human
duty, human character and conduct of human behaviour and human relationships in
nursing is a particular code of behaviours, characters, conducts and relationship
unique only to the nursing personnel.
Nursing ethics is "a system of principles governing the
conduct of a nurse, her relationship to the patient and his family, her
associates and society at large."
As a guidelines to all those in the nursing profession, the
Grand Council of the International Council of Nurses held at Sao Paulo, Brazil
on July 10, 1953, adopted, viewed and revised in the year 1964.
Code of Ethics as applied to Nursing
The codes of ethics are as follows:
The nurse provides services with
respect for human dignity irrespective of social or economic status, personal
attributes, or the nature of health problems
The fundamental responsibility of
the nurse is threefold; to conserve life, to alleviate suffering and to promote
The nurse shall maintain at all time
the highest standards of nursing care and of professional conduct.
The nurse must not only be well
prepared to practice but shall maintain knowledge and skills at a consistently
The religious beliefs of a patient
shall be respected.
Nurses hold in confidence all
personal information entrusted to them.
Nurses recognise not only the
responsibilities but the limitations of their professional functions not to
recommend or give medical treatment without medical orders except in
emergencies, and report such action to a physician as soon as possible.
The nurse is under an obligation to
carry out the physician's orders intelligently and loyally and to refuse to
participate in unethical procedures.
The nurse assumes responsibility and
accountability for individual nursing judgments and actions.
The nurse sustains confidence in the
physician and other members of the health team; incompetence or unethical
conduct of associates should be exposed but a only to the proper authority.
The nurse safeguards the patients
and the public when health care and safety are affected by the incompetent,
unethical or illegal practice of any person.
The nurse co-operates with the health team and maintains
harmonious relationships with members of other professions and with nursing
The nurse adheres to standards of
personal ethics, which reflect credit upon the profession.
In personal conduct nurses should
not knowingly disregard the accepted pattern of behaviours of the community in
which they live and work.
The nurse participates and shares
responsibility with other citizens and other health professions in promoting
forts to meet the health needs of the public - local, state, national and
Requests poured in from many quarters of the nursing world
to review and revise this code against and representation for this purpose was
made thorough several national councils.
In accordance with these requests the Professional Service
Committee of the ICN selected a sub-committee for the revision of the code. The
final revised code was submitted to the ICN Council of National Representatives
in Mexico in May 1973 at the 15th Quadrennial congress.
The Sub-committee on the Code of Ethics tried to concentrate
their attention on the most vital aspects of nursing and built their revised
ethical code around five major headings.
Nurses and people
Nurse's responsibility is to those people who require
A person's values, customs and religious beliefs must be
respected. Personal information must be held in confidence or shared only with
Nurses and Practice
The nurse is responsible for giving the best care possible
at all times and under all circumstances and maintaining a high standard of
SocietyThe Code states the responsibility
of the nurse for positive promotion health of the society by initiating and
supporting action to meet the health and social needs
Nurses and co-workers
The nurse is the member of the health team which is made up
of all those who serve to meet the health needs of people. Nurses are expected
to cooperate and to work well with nursing colleagues, the other members of the
health team and members of other health professions.
Nurses and the profession
The Code points out very clearly the role of the nurse as a
leader and an active participator in professional activities by setting up and
carrying out desirable standards of nursing practice and nursing education.