6 min read

Best interests: legal and ethical definitions

Peter Ellis - Independent Nursing, Health and Social Care Consultant, Writer and Educator Hannah Ellis - Senior Paralegal Coordinator First published:

While nurses may frequently refer to the patient’s ‘best interests’, it is not always clear what this means. The definition of best interests is often complicated by the fact that it can having different meanings depending on whether it is used in a legal or ethical sense (Taylor, 2016).

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (2018) Code encourages nurses to ‘act in the best interests of people at all times’. This requires nurses to understand:

the definition of best interests
what their legal and professional responsibilities are in relation to best interests

This article considers the nature of best interests from a legal and ethical perspective and considers what this means for the decisions nurses make and the ways in which they might act in practise.

Legal best interests

Nurses must consider the legal meaning of best interests above any other considerations, since they may be held liable for

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Peter Ellis

Hannah Ellis

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