In the context of nursing, understanding the difference between basic concepts of values, morals, ethics, and bioethics is essential for building a responsible background for practice. This paper will focus on differentiation between the terms and providing an overview of their application to nursing.
Values refer to the set of ideas, beliefs, and attitudes people have and use as a basis for regulating behavior, including the nursing practice. An important note to mention is that values do not usually represent something ‘good’ or ‘bad’; rather, values are morally neutral and can depend on the matter of one’s taste or opinion as well as external influences of a person’s religion, culture, family, habits, or the environment. This means that most values are relative and differ from one person to another. The value of life, however, is an exception to the rule – it is a universal and objective value that also works in two directions: people value their own lives as well as the lives of others.
Morals represent a set of relative values and act in respect to the dual value of the life of self and others. Such moral values as freedom, truth, charity, and others are enhancing and protecting for all people. There are also relative morals that people re-examine and re-evaluate continuously for ensuring that they perform to the desired level. For instance, even moral values of universal healthcare are supported by law and thus are often reviewed (Pollock, 2015). Those moral values that have become outdated, such as courage, are taken out and replaced by such values as beneficence or nonmaleficence.
The concept of ethics refers to the set of moral principles that govern the behavior of a person in terms of choosing between right or wrong. From the nursing perspective, a person is considered ethical when he or she is willing to do the right thing for a patient despite it being hard. Therefore, ethics in nursing represent moral values in action, which means that being an ethical person is a fundamental human trait as morality protects the lives of people and is respectful of all other individuals. Ethics can also be considered a lifestyle that aligns with the universal values of humankind, which is especially true for nurses. For instance, human equality and the absolute right to life, as articulated by the Founding Fathers of America, are ethical pillars that helped to create the healthcare environment that benefits patients’ wellbeing. Even in such contexts as treating a convicted murderer, nurses have the ethical duty to do their job even if this implies dealing with a person who had killed others.
Bioethics is the term used for referring to ethical consequences and applications of health-associated sciences, in which dilemmas occur regularly (Mandal, Ponnambath, & Parja, 2017). Therefore, bioethics prompts professionals from the fields of medicine and healthcare to ask questions about the right things that should be done, which procedures would be worthwhile, whether there are any distinct obligations to their patients, which moral grounds should be applied in certain situations, and many more. Therefore, bioethics helps nurses, physicians, surgeons, and other professionals distinguish between procedures that will be beneficial or harmful to their patients.
Overall, the differentiation between values, morals, ethics, and bioethics has shown that each of the notions helps guide decision-making and acting in a way that will yield positive results. Personal value systems represent a variety of learned beliefs that enable one’s choice between alternative solutions, even in cases when some of them may not be good choices. These values are supported by morals and ethics, which play an important role in the shaping of bioethics.
Mandal, J., Ponnambath, D. K., & Parija, S. C. (2017). Bioethics: A brief review. Tropical Parasitology, 7(1), 5-7.
Pollock A. M. (2015). Morality and values in support of universal healthcare must be enshrined in law. Comment on “Morality and Markets in the NHS”. International journal of health policy and management, 4(6), 399-402.