Most of the time, I enjoyed my work as a nurse, loved my job, and did not encounter any difficulties. One day, I noticed an ethical dilemma brewing. A patient had been admitted on my floor that was dying of full-blown AIDS. He was housed in one of the two isolation rooms on the floor. I noticed that none of the nurses were going in the room on a regular basis to perform the normal nursing duties they should have been doing as they were doing with the other patients on the floor. That alone would have posed enough of an ethical dilemma, but what I noticed next placed the situation in a territory nowhere near where it should have been.
The other nurses were sending Certified Nursing Aids and untrained student nurses into the room with the AIDS patient. This was clearly because they did not want to risk catching the disease themselves. I can say this with confidence because they were having these CNAs and student nurses do things to the patient that they simply were not qualified to do. Examples of what these workers were being sent into the room to do were to draw blood work, give shots, and work with other hazardous bodily fluids and materials.
It was clear to me that not only was this ethical dilemma forming right in front of my eyes, but it was also very likely illegal. I was at a loss regarding what I should do at the time. It felt like I would be betraying my fellow nurses by turning them in. However, I knew it was wrong to send unqualified workers into the room with the patient to perform tasks that they were not trained to do.
The primary ethical reasoning used in this case was deontological ethics. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2009, pg. 1), “The word deontology derives from the Greek words for duty (done) and science (or study) of (logos). In contemporary moral philosophy, deontology is one of those kinds of normative theories regarding which choices are morally required, forbidden, or permitted.