Nursing Deontology and Ethical Principles

The philosophy of nursing is based on universal principles of ethics, the science of morality. Medical ethics, a component of general ethics, addresses humanistic, moral principles in the activities of a healthcare professional (Smith & Field, 2019). A nurse who shares the philosophy of nursing embraces ethical obligations, values, and virtues. Ethical obligations are rules and actions within the nurse’s professional competence the scope of her work. I chose deontology as the theory of nursing ethics for my work. My choice is primarily due to the breadth of this concept and a large number of scientific publications on this topic. Medical deontology is a set of ethical norms and principles of behavior of medical workers in the performance of their professional duties. All established principles of behavior are aimed at maximizing the effectiveness of patient care.

According to modern concepts, nursing deontology includes scientific and practical aspects. The scientific section studies ethical aspects of a nurse’s activity, and the practical one is the area of medical practice, the tasks of which are formation and application of ethical norms and rules in medical activity. According to deontology, the four universal ethical principles are mercy, autonomy, justice, and completeness of care (Smith & Field, 2019). These concepts are vital to this theory, and many scholarly works have been written on them. The principle of mercy implies a sensitive and attentive attitude toward the patient, the choice of treatment methods proportionate to the severity of the condition. Buka (2020) also notes the patient’s willingness and ability to cope with the prescribed medical intervention as part of the principle of mercy. The basic principle is that any action by a medical professional should be for the benefit of the individual patient. The principle of autonomy requires respect for each patient’s personality and decisions. Yildiz (2017) states that each individual can only be seen as an end, not as a means to an end.

Related to the principle of autonomy are aspects of health care such as confidentiality, respect for the patient’s culture, religion, political and other beliefs. This principle also implies informed consent to medical interventions and the joint planning and implementation of a plan of care, as well as the patient’s own decision-making or that of the patient’s legal representative (Smith & Field, 2019). The principle of fairness or non-injury requires that health care providers treat all patients equally, regardless of their status, position, or profession. Many researchers also say that this principle determines that whatever care a health care provider provides to a patient, his or her actions must not harm the patient or others (Smith & Field, 2019). When confronted with a conflict situation between a patient and his loved ones or other health care providers, this principle should guide us to be on the patient’s side.

Finally, the principle of completeness of care implies professional care and a professional attitude toward the patient. It is also essential to use the whole arsenal of health care to provide quality diagnosis and treatment, preventive measures, and palliative care (Smith & Field, 2019). This principle requires absolute compliance with all healthcare-related legislation as well as all provisions of the Code of Ethics. Thus, according to deontology, the moral responsibility of the health professional implies that he or she complies with all the principles of medical ethics.


Buka, P. (2020). Essential law and ethics in nursing: Patients, rights and decision-making (3rd Ed.). Routledge. Web.

Smith, B., & Field, L. (2019). Nursing care: An essential guide for nurses and healthcare workers in primary and secondary care (3rd Ed.). Routledge. Web.

Yildiz, E. (2017). Ethics in nursing: A systematic review of the framework of evidence perspective. Nursing ethics, 26(4), 1128-1148. Web.

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NursingBird. "Nursing Deontology and Ethical Principles." December 17, 2022.