Ethical issues have greatly affected the nursing field in recent times. Ethics denote moral conducts that define wrongful or rightful acts. The nursing profession is confronted by dilemmas that require critical thinking and decision making to safeguard patients’ interests, legal and professional requirements. An ethical dilemma refers to an issue that has no resolution. Therefore, a number of choices to resolve the same situation may be available to nurses and may have diverse consequences. Depending on the situation, an ethical decision may be regarded as right or wrong. Nursing ethics give practitioners tools and principles to define ethical decisions depending on their knowledge, beliefs, experience, and values (Belshaw, 2010). Nurses thus make choices that encompass quality of life, freedom, privacy, and control of information based on personal belief of its importance.
Confidentiality denotes the state of being tightlipped. Patients’ rights embrace secrecy where personal information is not to be shared other than for medical attention purposes. Patients are to trust their doctors and believe that any personal information shared with the doctor is to remain concealed (Butts & Rich, 2008). However, it is clear that such information may be disclosed without such consent if there is imperative public interest. For instance, a nurse would breach the confidentiality requirement if non-disclosure of such information puts the person or the public in a risky situation that may lead to death or harm.
Patients suppose that hospital records are confidential and thus no individual ought to violate that assurance, whether induced or not. Conflict exists due to the aspect of public interest, which has little guidance from the legal system. Hence, this raises alarms as to whom nurses are required to protect without breach of confidentiality. The dilemma created is whether the public interest is more pronounced than patients’ right to confidentiality (DeNisco & Barker, 2012). In this case, the General Medical Council will defend and support a practicing nurse who breaches the principle against the revelation that public concern justifies it.
Current Laws and Regulations
Practitioners are at their own discretion to determine whether situations warrant disclosure in the public interest. However, failure to disclose information where necessary may lead to violation of public right. In such situations, legal, ethical, as well as professional questions that are difficult to satisfy overwhelm nurses. In the case of Hunter v Mann, the court ruled that health practitioners are not to reveal patients’ information if assent is not received in professional faculty (Butts & Rich, 2008).
Ethical Theory and Proposal
Ethical issues facing confidentiality come up because laws relating to the public interest are judicial. To solve the conflict, new laws and rules that define the public interest should be devised. Hence, nurses are left to use professional judgment to evaluate situations and make decisions on whether to disclose information or not in an attempt to promote ethical justice (DeNisco & Barker, 2012). Maryland Nurse Practice Act would admit that the public interest aspect is aimed at guiding nurses and ensuring accountability for any decision made.
A clear definition of the concept of public interest would help in avoiding conflicts. Nurses should make use of organizational advisers to minimize the risk of breach of confidentiality.
Resolution Promotes Ethical Justice
Attributable to the current developments in Human Rights Act that enable persons to sue public organizations for breach of confidentiality, it is likely that such litigations may augment (Butts & Rich, 2008). In addition, professional code of conduct requires practitioners to uphold confidentiality in order to guarantee quality service. The definition of public interest respects patients’ information and yields justice for all.
Belshaw, C. (2010). Privacy, confidentiality, and harm. Nursing Ethics, 17(1), 133-134.
Butts, J. B., & Rich, K. (2008). Nursing ethics: Across the curriculum and into practice. Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
DeNisco, S. M., & Barker, A. M. (2012). Advanced practice nursing: Evolving roles for the transformation of the profession. Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.