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Ethical Decision Making

Initial Reaction to the News Story

In December, I came across a disturbing news story about a legal case involving nursing negligence that resulted in a patient’s death. The details were sparse, but the gist was that a nurse had improperly administered medication to a patient who subsequently went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived. I was shocked and dismayed that such an egregious medical error could occur. I felt deep sympathy for the patient and their loved ones, who suffered an immense loss due to apparent negligence. Upon further contemplation, I recognized the complexity of the legal and ethical issues. This situation implicated the nurse and the broader system and culture of the healthcare institution where care was delivered. While the nurse is responsible for providing competent care, other dynamics are also at play.

Role of Regulatory Organizations

In analyzing this case, regulatory organizations such as state nursing boards and healthcare accreditation agencies play a significant role. They set practice standards and guidelines to promote safe, ethical care. When errors occur, they conduct investigations to determine if standards were breached. If so, they may impose disciplinary actions like license revocation or restrictions. Regulatory oversight aims to uphold accountability and deter future negligence (Mahat et al., 2023). However, punitive measures should be carefully weighed along with opportunities for rehabilitation and improvement.

Ethical Issues and Principles

Several ethical principles come into focus here, too. Nonmaleficence refers to the duty to avoid causing harm. The nurse violated this principle through a medication error, resulting in the patient’s death. Veracity, or truth-telling, is relevant regarding disclosure and transparency about what happened. Healthcare organizations must be forthright about errors while respecting patient privacy (Cheraghi et al., 2023). Justice is also at stake, as families deserve fair compensation for their loss.

Implications for Health Policy

This situation has implications for health policy as well. It points to potential nursing education, training, and protocol compliance gaps. Healthcare organizations must ensure that nurses are fully prepared to administer medications safely and follow procedures consistently. Policies for double-checking high-risk medications need to be strengthened. Broader initiatives to promote a safety culture and reduce the stigma around reporting errors could also improve outcomes.

Cultural, Social, Spiritual, Political, and Economic Factors

Culturally, there may be underlying issues related to nurses’ high demands and stress. Efforts to address systemic problems like understaffing and excessive overtime may be warranted. There are also social dynamics regarding the power differential between healthcare professionals and patients (Haskins & Roets, 2022). Empowering patients and their families to ask questions and advocate for their care could prevent some errors.

Spiritually and emotionally, causing unintentional harm through a medical mistake can be devastating for healthcare providers. Organizations need to offer counseling and peer support to help nurses cope. There are also financial and political factors, as medical errors increase healthcare costs and underscore the need for adequate funding for nursing education and hospital staffing.

Evolved Perspective After Analysis

Upon deeper reflection, I have a more nuanced perspective. My initial reaction overlooked the complex web of factors that contribute to errors. While seeking justice for the affected family is appropriate, a purely punitive approach fails to address the root causes. A systems-focused view that balances accountability with opportunities for improvement is better for both patients and nurses. Regulation, education, evidence-based policies, cultural change, and political-economic factors promote patient safety (Vaismoradi et al., 2020).

Rather than focusing blame exclusively on individual healthcare providers, it is important to partner with them to build a more ethical, compassionate system. Nurses face substantial pressures, and most strive to provide excellent care despite challenges. Still, negligence that harms patients cannot be ignored. There are no easy answers, but openly discussing these difficult issues is the first step. A thoughtful, empathetic, yet principled approach is needed to uphold ethical standards while creating a culture that supports healthcare professionals in delivering safe care.

The tragedy of a patient’s death from apparent negligence rattled me initially. However, a reasoned analysis reveals broader institutional and system issues that demand nuanced solutions. Blame assigns responsibility but fails to prevent recurrences. Vaismoradi et al.’s (2020) research shows that true change requires openness and commitment to do better by nurses, administrators, regulators, and policymakers. We owe patients, families, and healthcare providers nothing less than a collective effort to foster ethical, safe, and compassionate care. This begins with more thoughtful discourse around difficult cases, staying focused when the imperative to do right is paramount.


Cheraghi, R., Valizadeh, L., Zamanzadeh, V., Hassankhani, H., & Jafarzadeh, A. (2023). Clarification of the ethical principle of beneficence in nursing care: An integrative review. BMC Nursing22(1), 1–9.

Haskins, H. E. M., & Roets, L. (2022). Nurse leadership: Sustaining a Culture of Safety. Health SA Gesondheid27(0), 8.

Mahat, A., Dhillon, I., Benton, D., Fletcher, M., & Wafula, F. (2023). Health practitioner regulation and national health goals. Bulletin of the World Health Organization101(09), 595–604.

Vaismoradi, M., Tella, S., A. Logan, P., Khakurel, J., & Vizcaya-Moreno, F. (2020). Nurses’ Adherence to Patient Safety principles: a Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(6), 1–15.


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