Ethics and the Law A Medical

Dorothy had no cognitive impairment and was an individual with a strong personality. A do not resuscitate form (DNR) was in place for this patient. From admission Dorothy refused to eat, the dietician had assessed her to rule out any physical limitations, for example, Dysphasia. The daughter explained that her mother had been refusing to eat for some time prior to her admission and that she herself had been forcing Dorothy to eat and requested that the nurses do the same. On this particular day, I was looking after Dorothy which meant it was my responsibility to feed her. Dorothy made it clear that she did not want to eat her lunch, I attempted to encourage Dorothy to eat and explained that it was in her best interest however she was not persuaded.

The basic legal concern within this scenario is that the nurse should do when a patient refuses to eat even though it is in her best interests. The most basic law covering a nurse within his/her duties is that of a “duty of care” (Diamond, 2006). This has been defined by the NMC as “a responsibility to deliver safe and effective care based on current evidence, best practice, and where applicable, validated research.” (NMC, 2004). Further, a “court of law could find a registrant negligent if a person suffered harm because they neglected to care for them adequately” (NMC, 2004) (my emphasis).

The questions that need to be raised here are the following. How can negligent be defined? This definition depends upon whether the patient is suffering harm, and whether that harm is occurring because I neglected to care for them adequately. Perhaps this issue may be explored through posing a similar although vitally different scenario. If I had just forgotten to give the patient her meal because I was on the phone with my boyfriend, and she had not stated that she did not want to be fed, then this would appear to be negligence.

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