Survey of Nurses Rights In Abortion

  1. WITHOUT STARTING A FLAME WAR, OR A HOLY CRUSADE!! The thread in OB/GYN nursing got me wondering.

    Does a nurse have a right to refuse to participate in certain procedures, if s/he feels those procedures violate their ethical code?

    Or, is a nurse required to put aside how they feel about an issue to care for a patient whose moral beliefs may be different?

    I'd like opinions, but remember, no flaming or evangelism.

    Kevin McHugh
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  2. Poll: What are a nurse's moral obligations in the case of elective abortion?

    • A nurse has the right to refuse to participate on the grounds that elective abortion violates his/her moral beliefs.

      81.76% 130
    • A nurse does not have the right to refuse, because the moral beliefs of the nurse are irrelvant to the patient.

      16.35% 26
    • Don't know/No opinion.

      1.89% 3
    159 Votes
  3. 65 Comments

  4. by   Agnus
    I personally have participated in the abortion process with patients. I believe any nurse who has objections to any procedure or practice has not only a right but an obligation to excuse herself from participating. With the exception that if no one is available to relieve her she has a legal obligation not to abandon her patient.

    It is not only a disservice and very distressing for the nurse but is a disservice to the patient. If the nurse has morral beliefs that opose the procedure.
  5. by   gwenith
    Yes she should have the right to refuse with the one caveat - you should not enter a job where you would expect to deal with this on a daily basis i.e. dont go to work for an abortion clinic if you do not agree with it. Same for blood transfusions - do not work in an area where you are expected to administer them on a daily basis if this is against your beliefs. Most people will respect your wishes and not force you into something you find uncomfortable.
  6. by   fergus51
    I didn't think this was really up for debate. A nurse does have the right to refuse on moral grounds. As long as this is made clear on hiring, I don't see a problem.

    For instance, I used to work OB and those nurses sometimes assisted in circs. I don't believe in them, and was upfront about it when I was hired. So if it came up, another nurse would participate in the circ and I would do her work. Same thing now in the NICU where I work. There are nurses who don't believe in blood transfusions. Another nurse will give the blood for them. Not a big deal. We would lose a lot of good nurses if we didn't respect their right to refuse to participate in procedures they believe are morally objectionable.
  7. by   kmchugh
    Quote from fergus51
    I didn't think this was really up for debate. A nurse does have the right to refuse on moral grounds. As long as this is made clear on hiring, I don't see a problem.
    Fergus

    I'd have thought so too, but reading the other thread, I kind of picked up on the fact that some people felt otherwise. We already have a few votes in the other direction.

    I've given it some thought, and I agree with you, nurses should not be forced to do things they find morally objectionable. However, thinking about it I found there were some very compelling arguments in the other direction.

    Kevin
  8. by   kmchugh
    Quote from gwenith
    Yes she should have the right to refuse with the one caveat - you should not enter a job where you would expect to deal with this on a daily basis i.e. dont go to work for an abortion clinic if you do not agree with it. Same for blood transfusions - do not work in an area where you are expected to administer them on a daily basis if this is against your beliefs. Most people will respect your wishes and not force you into something you find uncomfortable.
    Of course, this line of reasoning only makes good sense.

    KM
  9. by   fergus51
    Quote from kmchugh
    Fergus

    I'd have thought so too, but reading the other thread, I kind of picked up on the fact that some people felt otherwise. We already have a few votes in the other direction.

    I've given it some thought, and I agree with you, nurses should not be forced to do things they find morally objectionable. However, thinking about it I found there were some very compelling arguments in the other direction.

    Kevin
    I suppose that's the difference between should and can. As it is they can refuse. I would hope their coworkers would be supportive enough to help out in such cases. The way I see it is we have more than enough crap heaped on us already. Why force nurses to do things they feel are morally wrong for no reason?
  10. by   P_RN
    Yes the nurse has the right and I have excercised that right. I nearly lost a good friend who was the NM on that unit.......I never got pulled there again.
  11. by   Elenaster
    I feel that the nurse has the right to refuse to participate in an elective abortion if it violates his or her moral beliefs. This is a subject that people have very passionate feelings about on both sides of the spectrum and those feelings should be respected. Afterall, I have seen doctors on numerous occasions refuse to do things that conflicted with their moral beliefs.

    However, Kevin does raise an interesting question that transcends the abortion issue and permeates other areas of nursing practice:

    Does a nurse have a right to refuse to participate in certain procedures, if s/he feels those procedures violate their ethical code?


    Working only in the ICU and the ED, I have to say that I've probably done this. For instance coding an 88-year-old for the third time who had advance directives stating he didn't want heroic measures or life support. Unfortunately his appointed healthcare POA didn't abide by his wishes and he languished on a ventilator for almost another month.

    I also have kept a clinically brain dead (confirmed by nuclear flow studies) individual on dopamine and neo all night because and inexperienced resident "dropped the ball" and told the family they had to decide whether or not to withdraw care. It only took them another day-and-a-half to make up their minds.

    I guess my point is, in this profession of ours we are frequently confronted with circumstances, often times beyond our control, where we may have to do something that we find unsettling or don't agree with. I suppose you just have to decide for yourself what you are/are not capable of and try your best to find employment that accomodates your belief system. For instance, I knew working in ICU in a major trauma center that I would probably have my ethical framework challenged, however I feel most of my work is for the greater good, and I personally can live with that.
  12. by   Tweety
    No one should be asked to do anything that is morally and ethically against their beliefs.

    However, if it is something that comes up often in their job, they should be asked to transfer. For instance of nurse that works in a cancer unit who has trouble with comfort measures, or a critical care nurse who has trouble with extubating a patient who they know might stop breathing, or a JW who works on an OR unit where blood is frequently given.

    In any case, never should anyone be forced into it.
  13. by   SmilingBluEyes
    to me, there is no debate. no nurse or doctor should be forced to participate in any act or procedure truly against his/her true religious or ethical beliefs. I do not see an argument the other way. there are always others who will fill in that gap.
  14. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    Many things I have been required to do in nursing conflict with my personal morals and ethics. Two examples are giving tube-feedings to LTC pts in a chronic vegetative state, and participating in providing futile "life extending" measures to dying pts, when all it does is prolong their suffering and delay the inevitable.

    However, as a nurse, I feel it's my duty to "suck it up" and provide care that conflicts with my personal beliefs, if it's in my assignment to do so.

    When I worked LTC, I was often the only nurse in the building. In every LTC facility I've ever worked in, their are pts on tube-feedings who have no quality of life whatsoever. If I had chosen to refuse to tube-feed these pts, I would not have been able to work in LTC.

    I work in dialysis now, and often must do tx on pts whom I feel are not appropriate for it. Such as pts w/ severe Alzheimer's disease. This goes against my personal ethics, but it's not for me to decide.
    Last edit by Hellllllo Nurse on Mar 25, '04
  15. by   nurseygrrl
    Quote from SmilingBluEyes
    to me, there is no debate. no nurse or doctor should be forced to participate in any act or procedure truly against his/her true religious or ethical beliefs. I do not see an argument the other way. there are always others who will fill in that gap.
    Couldn't have said it better myself except to add that like it or not, performing an abortion is causing a death. I think ANYONE has a right to refuse to partake in that.

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