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The four ethical principles

Diane Burns - Author First published: Last updated:

Knowledge of the principles of ethics plays a significant role in upholding professional standards, as required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council Code (NMC, 2018). Understanding ethics in healthcare helps nurses to advocate for and support their patients by overcoming ethical and moral dilemmas, as well as navigating a range of scenarios.

Knowledge of ethics helps practitioners make morally-sound judgements, and better understand and support patient needs (Ellemers et al, 2019; Varkey, 2021). The ethical principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice, as well as their implications for decision making and patient care in nursing, are explored in this article.

The principles

Beauchamp and Childress (2013) outlined four underlying principles of biomedical ethics:

  1. beneficence
  2. non-maleficence
  3. autonomy
  4. justice

These ethical principles are integral to professional nursing, often acting as a point of reference when understanding and responding to challenges in healthcare practice (Kangasniemi et al, 2015). Varkey (2021) stated that the

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Diane Burns