Ethical Health Promotion: The Primary Health

Subject: Medical Ethics
Pages: 2
Words: 605
Reading time:
3 min

Health promotion is basically the process through which people are empowered to increase control over their health while enhancing quality of life. According to Taylor et al. (2020), the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion was a landmark document which laid out a concise statement of actions that healthcare practitioners can take to improve health. Particularly, medical workers need to make value judgements and decide what is better for an individual or the society. In addition, they should understand the procedures for ethical intervention. In some cases, what the medic perceives as right may conflict with the rights of the patient, or the codes of conduct, creating a dilemma. The objective of this paper is to summarize and discuss Miller’s article “Ethical Issues Arising from Marijuana Use by Nursing Mothers in a Changing Legal and Cultural Context.” The role of the healthcare professionals will then be discussed through the lens of theory and codes as relevant to the case.

Summary of Miller’s Paper

After many states legalized marijuana, it is within the legal rights for people to choose to use the drug. However, evidences from various studies show that cannabis can be secreted in breast milk, affecting the child. Healthcare workers face an ethical challenge in such cases where they want to promote the health of the baby but the mother has legal rights to use the drug. Nursing mothers who feel that they are judged for using marijuana may not seek comprehensive post-natal care (Miller, 2019). Therefore, it is important for providers to understand that more is at stake in promoting health for this group of population. The nurses, physicians, and healthcare administrators need to be ready to handle the ethical issues that arise when treating breastfeeding women who are using cannabis. The issue is whether coercion can justifiably be used to make women stop using marijuana even if it infringes on their legal right.

Role of Healthcare Professionals in Resolving the Issue

The healthcare workers have a role to provide accurate information about the possible effects of taking marijuana while nursing an infant. Raising public awareness is also essential so as to influence community-level initiatives. It is also the role of medics to assess the problem with each nursing mother while considering their traditions and faith. Notably, some women come from cultures which believe that cannabis is medicinal and good for their health. Knowing the ethical principles involved and determining the values that the patient has will also help the practitioner in making a decision on whether to use strategies such as coercion to make the mother stop using the drug.

Ethical Codes and Theories

The ethical code that should be followed in this case includes professionalism and due care, confidentiality, procedural and social justice. When caring for the woman and her child, the healthcare provider must be neutral and do the best to enhance their wellness. The position of educating the client is supported by the theory of reasoned action and planned behavior. The proposition of this model is that before a person decides to engage in a conduct they will plan and think of the consequences (Taylor et al., 2020). The implication is that, given that women care about their babies, if they understand that taking cannabis will have detrimental effects on the child, they are likely to stop. Kant deontological theory also proposes that people should endeavor to obey rules, implying that as long as healthcare professionals adhere to the codes and principles then the decision is justifiable (Avery, 2017). It is important to observe the principles listed in the codes and theories to inform decisions during controversial health promotion.


Avery, G. (2017). Law and ethics in nursing and healthcare: An introduction. SAGE

Miller, J. (2019). Ethical issues arising from marijuana use by nursing mothers in a changinglegal and cultural context. HEC Forum, 31(1), 11-27.

Taylor, J., O’Hara, L., Talbot, L., & Verrinder, G. (2020). Promoting health: The primary health care approach. Elsevier.