Nurses weighing benefit versus risk, working with doctors

Nurses the soldiers on the frontlines of healthcare. Often spendingtwelve hours a day with a patient, nurses are the first to witness what theirpatient experiences.

Due to the nature of their work, nurses can attest to thesuffering a patient experiences, often before a doctor or family member isaware. Nurses have the responsibility to advocate for their patients, acting onthe values of veracity, beneficence, justice, and autonomy. Veracity is definedas truthfulness. Nurses must be truthful when providing care to patient.Remaining truthful and honest helps the patient make decisions in regards theirown health and builds a rapport between the nurse and patient. A nurse-patientrelationship without trust can lead to poor communication and less-than-optimalcare. Beneficence stems from the Nightingale Pledge all nurses take, pledgingto do no harm to a patient. Nurses are constantly weighing benefit versus risk,working with doctors and interdisciplinary teams to form the best plan of carefor a patient.

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Beneficence enforces the idea of doing only good for thepatient. Justice means treating all patients equally and fairly, regardless oftheir background, without bias or prejudice. Nurses treat patients from allwalks of life, and justice ensures that everyone receives the same level ofcomprehensive, compassionate care.  Autonomyis the liberty to make an informed, unpersuaded decision in regards to one’sown life. Patient have the right to make informed decisions about theirhealthcare.

Patient autonomy fosters a sense of independence and dignity thatnurses work diligently to uphold. The heavily debated topic of assisted suicidebrings awareness to the importance of enforcing these values. Assisted suicide,also called physician assisted suicide, is the act of ingesting drugs specificallyprescribed to end one’s own life. The patient population is aging and livingwith chronic illnesses.

Terminally ill patients often suffer with pain that isbeyond comprehension. Some may even wish to end their life rather than sufferwith the pain. While nurses do not participate in assisted suicide, they arecalled to provide comfort to those in pain and provide compassionatecomprehensive end-of-life care. Working with this patient population requires enforcingthe four values of autonomy, beneficence, justice, and veracity.

The values areinterwoven with each other and all should be addressed when discussing thetopic of assisted suicide.