ETHICAL PROBLEMS: Putting your life on the line

February 2006 
Volume 36  Number 2
Pages 24 - 24
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Hurricane Katrina has made us all more aware of how vulnerable we are to natural disasters. The hospital where I work has a disaster plan and other policies that say nurses must do everything required to care for patients in a catastrophe. Most of the policies deal with fires and blizzards and cover working extra shifts when necessary. But they don't specify what's “required” if nurses must risk their own lives to care for patients .

How far does a nurse's ethical obligation to care for patients extend, and at what point does it end? Are we ethically obligated to put our own lives on the line? —C.T., N.Y.

In nursing, ethical codes serve as guidelines for nursing actions by setting standards and moral ideals against which nurses measure their personal values and professional practice. The problem with such professional codes of ethics is that they're necessarily general. No one set of ...

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