Competent patients' refusals of nursing care do not yet have the legal or ethical standing of refusals of life-sustaining medical therapies such as mechanical ventilation or blood products. The case of a woman who refused turning and incontinence management owing to pain prompted us to examine these situations. We noted several special features: lack of paradigm cases, social taboo around unmanaged incontinence, the distinction between ordinary versus extraordinary care, and the moral distress experienced by nurses. We examined this case on the merits and limitations of five well-known ethical positions: pure autonomy, conscientious objection, paternalism, communitarianism, and feminism. We found each lacking and argue for a 'negotiated reliance' response where nurses and others tread as lightly as possible on the patient's autonomy while negotiating a compromise, but are obligated to match the patient's sacrifice by extending themselves beyond their usual professional practice.
- End-of-life care
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Issues, ethics and legal aspects