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Learning Activities
Nursing 3170: Bioethics

Bioethical Issues and Technology


Autonomy means that the person has all the necessary information to decide on a course of action, which he or she is free to choose. Respecting autonomy requires that I recognize that the individual’s choice is based on his or her values and that those values do not have to be shared by me. We must be careful to recognize that not all individuals are in a position to act autonomously, including infants, medically or psychologically compromised individuals, or those society has chosen to restrict, such as prisoners. In health care, autonomy is the principle underlying informed consent, the right to refuse treatment, and the right to appoint a surrogate decision maker (e.g. a durable power of attorney).”

- (D. Proctor, 1995, p. 305).

Canadian nurses are guided by a national Code of Ethics (Canadian Nurses Association, 1996) which outlines the ethical and moral expectations that all nurses in this country are bound to uphold. From a humanistic, ethical perspective, nurses are expected to be adept at exploring the values, beliefs, moral dilemmas and levels of development, as well as, the decision making capabilities expressed by themselves, by other involved health care professionals, and by clients and their support persons.

In recent years, issues of ethical complexity have increased due to the “...rapidly expanding body of health care knowledge and the development of technologies to save, generate, or prolong life,” (MacPhail & Kerr, 1996, p. 17). Nurses need to develop knowledge and experience in ethical decisions, counseling and supporting clients and families faced with grave bioethical decisions.

Critical social and feminist theories direct nurses to apply the ethical principles of respect and dignity for all life, beneficence, honesty and integrity, autonomy and empowerment, as well as justice and exposure of any oppression experienced in the bioethical decision making process.

Ends in View

This learning activity is intended to give the learner the opportunity to:

1. Gain awareness of the role that values, belief systems, and moral awareness play in bioethical decision making.

2. Recognize the potential bioethical dilemmas that could arise with the use of technology in genetics and health care.

3. Develop a process for ethical decision making for their own nursing practice.

In Preparation

1. REFLECT: on your own values, beliefs, and level of moral awareness in relation to the use of technology in health care.

2. READ: Federwisch, Anne. (1999). Designer Genes: How the Human Genome Project could change your life. Nurseweek, September. http://www.nurseweek.com/features/99-9/genes.html

In Practice

1. Select a graphics or multimedia program to create a visual representation of how you view the bioethical decision making process. Possibilities include a: picture, schematic model, logo or ethical shield.

2. Participate in the free online course from Ethics World for health care professionals: Health Care Ethics. (Excellent resource with diverse points of view). http://www.learnwell.org/allethics.htm

In Reflection

1. How does humanistic theory integrate with bioethical principles?

2. Consider how computer technology has catalyzed many bioethical decisions related to the use of:

a) physiological monitors
b) genetic engineering
c) life-sustaining equipment
d) DNA testing


Canadian Nurses Association. (1996). Code of ethics for nurses. Ottawa: Author.

Ethics World. Health Care Ethics: Continuing Education Online Course in Ethics for Health Care Professionals. http://www.learnwell.org/eth5.shtml

Federwisch, Anne. (1999). Designer Genes: How the Human Genome Project could change your life. Nurseweek, September. http://www.nurseweek.com/features/99-9/genes.html

MacPhail, J. and Kerr, J. (1996). Ethical issues and dilemmas in nursing practice. In J. Kerr & J. MacPhail, Canadian nursing: Issues and perspectives. (3rd ed.) Toronto: Mosby, p. 251-267.

Proctor, D. (1995). Ethical Issues. In K. Vestal (ed.) Nursing management:Concepts and issues. (2nd ed.) Philadelphia: J.P. Lippincott.


Nursing Informatics Integration for the BSN in Nursing Program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Design & Content by © June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c) - 1999 - 2011
All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission