Informed Consent: Ethical Dimensions in the Health Professions

If a patient asks about treatment, drug or surgery, then it is the responsibility of the nurse to warn the patient about the potential risks associated with their inquiry about a drug, surgery, or treatment. According to the ruling made in 1914, in a case-law between Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital, the court ruled that patients have the right to decide what should be done with their bodies (Doherty & Purtilo, 2016). That is, a physician in charge of treating a critical health condition should caution the patients about the health risks associated with a particular medical procedure or guideline.

The concept conforms to a fiduciary relationship in which doctors, nurses, or any medical staff are mandated to disclose the possible dangers of a critical medical procedure. Furthermore, the court ruled that it was unethical to allow patients to make crucial decisions without explaining the severe consequences of those choices. Patients need to have full consent about the risks and dangers that may arise due to their options. Overall, the nurse’s responsibility is to explain to the patient the advantages and disadvantages of a risky procedure. The nurse should not decide for the patients unless they have poor mental competence.

If a surgeon explains the risks of an operation, the patient should understand that the physician is trying their best to communicate the implications involved. Further, the patient should note that they are mandated to make their final decision concerning the operation. In most hospitals, a patient is required to approve a surgical procedure by signing a document to indicate their consent to participate in the process. The physician’s work is to ensure that the patient is aware of the implications associated with the procedure and let them decide if they would wish to proceed. Most importantly, the patient should understand that the surgeon is sharing information and that they care about their wellbeing. Nevertheless, the patient must be knowledgeable about their health’s critical aspects for them to make sound decisions. As much as a physician cares about the patient’s wellbeing, they have no right to dictate what should be done to patient’s health. Overall, when a surgeon explains the risks of an operation, the patient needs to understand they need to make the final decision by weighing the advantages and disadvantages.

If a patient is told that their heart is harmed by smoking, they should understand that the doctor or the physician is concerned about their health. Most importantly, they would wish that the patient reduces the rate of smoking, avoids it, or even seeks a solution. Moreover, the patient needs to understand the consequences of tobacco use and make a positive change that would reduce the rate of harm. Otherwise, the physician has no power to forcefully make the patient avoid smoking as much as they care about their wellbeing (Doherty & Purtilo, 2016). The most important aspect is that the information is communicated ethically.

Additionally, the patient should exhibit mental competence to ensure that they understand the dangers of smoking. From experience, physicians should be able to evaluate the level of cognitive competence of their patients. That is, if the patient is not capable of making a profound decision about their smoking habit, then another treatment method would be incorporated. The physicians must give their consent using ethical clinical guidelines by maintaining a proper communication with the patient. Most importantly, the patient should understand that they need to avoid smoking as it affects their heart.


Doherty, R., & Purtilo, R., (2016). Ethical dimensions in the health professions. (6th ed.). Elsevier.