Ethical Decision Making Process Research Paper Sample

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Nursing, Ethics, Decision, Decision Making, Patient, Autonomy, Government, Medicine

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/10/13


Ethical dilemma characterizes almost every single profession today. Professional across different fields are constantly faced with various ethical issues that require them to make a decision and stand by it. This often proves to be very tricky as there is no clear definition of what exactly is ethical. The health care profession is particularly one whereby ethical dilemmas spring up occasionally, and professionals in this field are forced to make decisions that are ethical. If a health professional, for example a nurse, is not familiar with ethical decision-making processes and models, they can be overwhelmed by the ethical dilemma and they may ultimately not be able to perform their duties effectively. This paper explores two ethical decision-making processes in the nursing profession. The paper will commence by comparing and contrasting the two processes or models. This will be followed by an argument for which is better and more recommendable. This process will then be applied to an appropriate ethical dilemma often experienced in the nursing profession. Finally, the relevance of the ethical decision-making process to the nursing profession will be discussed.

Section 1

There are two main ethical decision-making processes or models that are often used to guide the ethical decision making processes in nursing. These are autonomy and beneficence.
Autonomy generally refers to the personal rule of the human self that is devoid of controlling interferences or interventions by other individuals as well as from personal limitations that often prevent meaningful choices. Individuals who use autonomy as a guide to ethical decision-making often act intentionally without controlling influences and with understanding (Fry & Johnstone, 2008).
In clinical application, autonomy does not simply entail allowing patients to make all their own decisions. Rather, the nurse or other health personnel are obligated to create an environment and conditions that are necessary or that can facilitate autonomy in patients or even other people. Therefore, ethical decision-making based on autonomy means respecting the self-determination rights of an individual as well as the creation of an appropriate environment for making autonomous choices. From the autonomy perspective, the patient is oblivious to the available choices and seeks the help of the nurse in making proper decisions (Sutrop, 2012). The patient does not possess the tools to make proper and informed choices and nurse together with other healthcare staff are given the responsibility of creating the conditions that are necessary for the autonomous choices of the patients (Sutrop, 2012). The nurse provides counsel to the patients when their choices appear to be disruptive to their wellbeing or health. Some of the ways through nurses can display their respect for autonomy as part of ethical decisions making is by maintaining patient confidentiality, disclosing crucial information to the patient including information pertaining to the health conditions and finally seeking the patient’s consent before proceeding with procedures and treatments.
Beneficence is the other ethical decision making model or guide to ethical decision-making. In general definition, the term beneficence refers to an action done for other’s benefit. Actions related to beneficence are usually taken by medical personnel to improve the situation of patients or to eliminate any harms that they may be facing (Munyaradzi, 2012). The medical personnel engages in actions that are in the best interests of the patients. There are two main understandings of beneficence. Once treats it as an obligation that every health personnel has. The other understanding treats beneficence as a non-obligatory but a moral principle that should guide a medical’s personnel decision-making process. As principle of medical ethics, beneficence can be generally summed as a requirement or obligation on the physician’s part to assists others further their legitimate and important interests and refrain from hurting them in any way whether morally, psychologically and physically (Munyaradzi, 2012). The physicians possess knowledge and skills that place them in a better position to assist other and because of the nature or the type of relationship between patients and physicians, the physician is obligated to prevent and even remove any harm that may accrue to the patient and also weigh and then balance possible risks and the possible benefits of a certain action.

Section 2

The two elements discussed above are often used by nurse in the ethical decisions making process. However, there are many occasions when there is a conflict of the two and when the nurse has to decide which the best decision-making process model is and which one they should, therefore, adopt.
On a personal level, I believe the beneficence should take precedence over autonomy. In relation to medical decisions, the physician possesses skills and knowledge that enable them to make decisions that are in the best interest of the patient. Normally, there is an availability of several choices when it comes to various ethical dilemmas. In such a situation, many would suggest that the patient is informed of the available choices or options and then he or she is allowed to make the decisions autonomously. As much as this is advisable, it is also crucial to remember that as much as the patient may be provided with all the information regarding various decisions, he or she stills lack medical expertise to make the most appropriate decision. This is where the aspect of beneficence comes in. It gives the physicians an opportunity to utilize their clinical expertise and knowledge to make the most appropriate decision that will benefit the patient fully, and that will not harm them in any way (Munyaradzi, 2012). The patient may choose an autonomously, but the physician possess the experience to indicate if this decision is the most appropriate. In addition, the physician has the ability to balance the benefits and the risk associated with a certain decision and decide whether it is worthwhile.
Therefore, when it comes to ethical decision-making, beneficence should be used. The nurse or the physician should make the decision that will ultimately benefit the patient or the client.

Section 3

This ethical model is applicable to various clinical situations and dilemmas. Examples are many and diverse and include issues related to staffing ratios, end of life care, newborns and so on (Husted & Husted, 2007). End of life care is the perfect example of an ethical dilemma that may necessitate the use of the beneficence principle. The end of life is a very sensitive matter that often bring up a lot of tension and debate. When a patient is suffering from some form or kind of terminal illness, he or she may decide to make the decision to end their lives in order to eliminate their suffering (Husted & Husted, 2007). However, the physician may be aware of certain procedures that are potentially painful but that can save the life of the patient and in fact completely heal them. If autonomy is fully adhered to, the physician’s hands are tied, and it means that the patient will simply allow himself to die. The beneficence element dictates that the physician does everything possible to benefit the client and to protect him from harm. In this case, the physician should be the one to make the decision regarding the procedure because at this stage the patient’s judgment is crowded. The patient may have suffered enough and may not be in the right mental place to make an appropriate decision. There would be no use of the physician if he or she did not do everything possible to save the patient (Husted & Husted, 2007). Ethical decision-making based on beneficence facilitates this.


`As observed, ethical dilemmas characterize all professions with the nursing profession being one of them. The professional in this field must be ready to make the most appropriate decisions when the need arises. There are various ethical decision-making processes or models in nursing, and each of these has its pros and cons. Ultimately, all these ethical decision-making processes or choices help the nurses ensure that the final decisions made is effective. This paper has shown beneficence as an ethical decision making process or guideline is very relevant to the medical profession and indeed when utilized, its helps to propagate the essential goals of the nursing profession which is to provide the best quality of care and intervention in order to preserve life and enhance health and wellbeing.


Fry, S. T., & Johnstone, M. J. (2008). Ethics in nursing practice: a guide to ethical decision making. International Council of Nurses.
Husted, J. H., & Husted, G. L. (2007). Ethical decision making in nursing and health care: The symphonological approach. Springer Publishing Company.
Munyaradzi, M. (2012). Critical reflections on the principle of beneficence in biomedicine. The Pan African Medical Journal, 11.
Sutrop, M. (2011). Viewpoint: how to avoid a dichotomy between autonomy and beneficence: from liberalism to communitarianism and beyond. Journal of internal medicine, 269(4), 375-379.

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