Ethical Case Analysis Essay
Will Stunt is a nurse taking care of a disabled patient, who also suffers from mental disorders. Due to his condition, Will’s patient cannot be left alone, as he requires permanent care, assistance and observation. The code of conduct for nurses is very strict in this case and any deviation from the rules and procedures leads to the critical measure of removing the nurses from their position. Will takes care of administering his disabled patient the prescribed medication, following his progress, while also assisting him with the necessary support for eating, going to the toilet, bathing, or getting dressed. While nurse Stunt puts his patient in the bathtub filled with water for administering the daily bath, he hears screams from outside and he can associate the screams with the voice of his pregnant colleague, who is being brutalized by her former boyfriend. Nancy, the brutalized nurse, is carrying a baby and any violent or aggressive act upon her can influence her and the unborn child’s wellbeing. Moreover, there is no other nurse in the care facility, as himself and Nancy were the only staff on the shift. Will is now facing an ethical dilemma, wherein he must decide on whether to go and help the pregnant nurse who risks pregnancy or even life threatening complications and leave the disabled patient alone in the bathtub, who might hurt himself.
Ethical Issue Statement
While he is aware of his professional responsibilities towards the disabled patient, Will is also conscious of his professional and personal moral responsibilities towards a pregnant woman in desperate need of help. As a nurse, he is directly responsible for the welfare of his patients, but he should also strive to provide welfare services for everybody in need. However, if he will choose to go outside the bathroom and help his colleague who is being brutalized by her former boyfriend, he risks failing on his professional responsibilities and breaking the nurse – patient formal code with the associated risks. He faces the risk of losing his job and the risk of not being able to practice nursing, due to negative referrals from the health facility’s administration. On the other hand, if he chooses not to intervene in the conflict outside he feels that he will fail to keep on to his moral principles of helping a person in need and moreover, a pregnant woman, who is also his colleague. He understands that any repercussions of the attacker’s actions upon the pregnant nurse will make him morally responsible for not intervening in any way.
In the moment when he hears his pregnant colleague screaming, nurse Stunt will take his disabled patient out of the bathtub, dry him quickly, cover him with a towel and put him in his wheelchair, from where he cannot engage in any life threatening actions. He will leave the patient in the wheelchair, while going outside to help his colleague by keeping the attacker away.
Another resolution to Will’s identified ethical dilemma is for him to get the patient out of the bathtub, dry him, cover him with a towel, put him in the wheelchair and take him with him as he goes to help his pregnant colleague. Like this, Will is not leaving his patient alone, which would mean violating his attributions, and he can also intervene in the pregnant woman’s defense.
Another possible answer for this ethical controversy is for Will to remain next to his patient, assisting to his needs and focusing on his attributions as a professional nurse, while calling the police to inform about the attack, asking for immediate intervention. Like this, he will help his pregnant colleague who is being attacked from distance.
The chosen resolution must reflect moral agency, which in Will Stunt’s case implies responsibility towards his patients and also the willingness to act on a normative principle, focusing on respecting the imposed rules, in accordance with the deontological ethics that impose ethical behavior (Ferrel, Fraedrich & Ferrel, 155). In the same time, Will’s action will also mirror the consequentialism, which will also include utilitarianism ethical principle. Like this, his chosen response to the ethical dilemma will need to take into consideration that his action should generate the greatest positive consequences for the greatest amount of people (Mill 5). Regardless of the context, Will’s behavior should be guided by the principles that define the attributes of his work, which override any other personal moral principles (Ferrel, Fraedrich & Ferrel 155).
Should Will decide on the first resolution, leaving his patient alone would imply violating the norms, regulations and working principles to which he agreed when signing the contract to become a nurse in the respective healthcare facility. By breaking the code of conduct of his profession, Will risks being fired from his current position and also he might confront the possibility of never practicing nursing again, if he is found guilty of irresponsible behavior that might harm the patient wellbeing. Going outside to help his colleague in need would not reflect his professionalism and deontological behavior, as the attacked person is not his patient and he has direct professional obligations towards his disabled patient, in the bathtub. From a consequentialism perspective, Will Stunt will face negative outcomes, which might severely impact his career. On the other hand, if he chooses to intervene for his colleague and go outside the bathroom to stop her aggressor, Will might give his pregnant colleague some time to get away from her attacker. This outcome is nevertheless not guaranteed, as Will does not know whether the attacker is armed, in which case his presence might even worsen the situation. Acting according to his personal moral principles and going outside to rescue the pregnant woman will generate positive outcomes (for the pregnant nurse and for Will’s personal moral principles’ satisfaction) only if he would manage to put off the conflict. Either way, in the moment when he would leave the bathroom, he would break his working principles and fail in accomplishing his ethical duty towards his patient.
Taking the patient with him as he will go to help the pregnant nurse will imply exposing the disabled patient, who also suffers from mental disorders, to a high source of stress, which will further aggravate his wellbeing. In the same time, while he will be focused on resolving the conflict between the pregnant nurse and her attacker he will not be able to assist the patient, who might hurt himself. In addition, Will Stunt might also be hurt while intervening in the conflict, as he is not trained for such actions, impeding him from further assisting his patient. Hence, the consequence of this action will result in no positive outcomes for any of the parties involved. From a deontological perspective, nurse Stunt would not technically break the rules because he would not leave his patient alone in the room. However, he would demonstrate poor judgment, indicating the lack of consideration for the consequences of exposing the disabled and mentally disordered patient to a violent scene. This resolution would also reflect negatively upon his career as a nurse, as he would demonstrate careless for the patient’s safe and wellbeing.
The third solution, on the other hand, focuses on nurse Stunt’s professional responsibility towards the patient and his moral responsibility towards his colleague. Calling police implies appealing to the entities entitled to handle such conflicts. As he does not have the needed training for intervening in attack to person cases, his intervention would only hinder him from accomplishing his duty and, as demonstrated above, might even generate suffering for him also. From a consequentialism perspective, this solution is the most likely to generate the greatest amount of happiness (positive consequences) for the greatest number of people involved. From a deontological perspective also, this solution is the single one that reflects the conformity to the imposed and agreed upon regulations and enforcement of an ethical behavior as a professional nurse.
Statement of Resolution
The third solution would reinforce the deontological ethics principles and would generate the most effective consequences for the persons involved in the ethical dilemma. The greatest good for the greatest number of people involved would be achieved by applying the third resolution, of choosing to remain with his disabled patient, while calling police for helping his colleague.
Hence, the only resolution that is most likely to generate the greatest amount of good for the greatest number, while also enforcing the deontological principles of respecting the rules, regulations and code of conduct imposed is the third solution. By choosing to remain with the patient Will behaves ethical from a deontological perspective. By choosing not to intervene himself, but to inform the competent authorities about the attack on the pregnant nurse, Will demonstrates civic and personal morality and utilitarian behavior.
This ethical dilemma presented Will Stunt, a nurse responsible for a disabled and mentally disordered patient, having strict responsibilities to follow for the wellbeing of his patient, when he hears the screams of his pregnant colleague, attacked by her former boyfriend. The case positioned Will is in a situation wherein he had to choose between his responsibility regarding his profession (deontological ethics) and his moral duty towards a person in need (utilitarianism). There were identified three potential resolutions for solving this ethical dilemma: leaving the patient alone in the bathroom, while intervening for the pregnant nurse; taking the patient along while intervening for the pregnant nurse; remaining with the patient and intervening for the pregnant nurse by informing the competent authorities regarding the attack upon his colleague. The resolution considered ethical from both deontological and utilitarianism (consequentialism) perspectives was the third one. Remaining with the disabled patient and calling the police for helping the pregnant nurse is the resolution most likely to generate the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of participants, while nurse Stunt would also remain loyal to his patient, acting deontological.
Ferrell, O.C., Fraedrich, John & Ferrell, Linda Business ethics 2009 update: ethical decisions making and cases. Mason: Cengage Learning. 2010. Print.
Mill, Stuart. Utilitarianism. London: Parker, Son, and Bourn, West Strand. 1863. Print.