Faced with ethical and legal decisions on a daily basis, nurses must at times make some pretty tough decisions including how to proceed with care for an incapacitated patient with no advanced directive or how to proceed when called upon to testify against a current employer. The American Nurses Association Code of Nursing Ethics is one of the main tools available for the nurse to utilize when it comes to making these tough decisions. The nurse may apply personal values as well as societal values to these cases in order to come to a sound, ethical decision. The nurse also carries a legal responsibility to their profession, workplace, patients, and self. Ethical and legal decision-making are complex but after a thorough assessment, the nurse can continue to make an ethically and legally sound judgment on how to proceed. Knowledge of laws that regulate and affect nursing practice is needed for two reasons: the first one is to ensure that the nurse’s decisions and actions are consistent with current legal principles, and the second is to ensure the nurse from liability.
This is why it is of great importance for nurses to keep up-to-date with such developments and to face the changing challenge, it is essential that the nurses are equipped with updated knowledge on laws related to health care. Caring for patients with no direct advances care is affected by various social, organizational, legal and economic policies. Nurses may place themselves in legal jeopardy when they opt for what they see as the ethical, or “right,” thing to do, in spite of what is mandated in the laws that apply. A similar discord can occur with institutional policy that may place the nurse in a similar position of risk at the workplace (Blais & Hayes, 2011). For example if a family that is deciding what next step to take in a cognitively impaired patient, the nurse has to remain unbiased and supportive to the family’s final decision. The nurse must demonstrate the responsibility of advocacy for the patient and the family by requesting an ethics committee to help the family explore all options and possible outcomes.