Ethical dilemmas are clinical situations where the beneficent care giving interventions or ethical values of health professionals conflict with a patient’s or family member’s wishes (Melia, 1992). Nurses are obligated to respect a patient’s choice and enforce the decision within the law and standards of the profession. Nurses may also have personal values that may conflict with a patient’s choice and it is important in all situations that nurses respect the patient’s choice. Ethical principles exist in the profession so as to guide the conduct of nurses and when faced with ethical dilemmas, the basis for decision making for the health care provider is guided by these values.Nursing ethics guide the professional conduct of nurses during patient care. These ethics share several principals with medical ethics and can be distinguished by the emphasis nursing ethics have on human dignity, formation of caring relationships and collaborative care. Principals such as justice, autonomy, non-maleficence and beneficence are core to the nursing profession (Brody, 1998). The ethical principles guide the everyday practice of nurses to ensure good patient care and to practice within the acceptable code of ethics.
In the nursing profession, nurses usually encounter medical situations that present ethical conflicts. Nurses actively participate during ethical decision making in clinical situations and these decisions may conflict with a patient’s or the family’s decision making autonomy. This presents an ethical dilemma to the nurse whose practice is guided by ethical principles but having the responsibility of providing decisions that conflict with these principals. 2.0 Case Study Baby Grace is an infant who had a low heart rate at birth with breathing difficulties and also exhibited no movement of her extremities. She was intubated and is supported by a mechanical ventilator. Diagnostic tests revealed that there was a hemorrhage high in her cervical spinal cord, the prognosis being poor. The parents have kept her on the ventilator life support for three months, with the hope that their baby would recover. There is little chance of recovery and Baby Grace’s quality of life is poor. Nurses view the situation as the importance of human life, the baby’s condition stabilized and they are reluctant to remove life support. The parents are unsure of the decision to make. 3.0 Ethical Conflict Nursing is a dynamic as well as a complex profession especially in situations where decisions that have to be made hang in the balance between life and death. Beneficence and