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From The CriticsReviewer: Judith A Erlen, PhD, RN, FAAN (University of Pittsburgh)
Description: This work focuses on nursing as applied ethics and invites and engages nurses to participate in the dialogue about ethics and values in healthcare. The author discusses rule, virtue, and feminist ethics and shows how each perspective frames and approaches decision making to examine ethical questions.
Purpose: The purpose is "to prepare nurses to become active participants in communal dialogues about values in health care" (p.xi). Nurses are key players in providing patient care within a complex health care system and, thus, need to be active participants in the discussion of ethical questions that arise while providing care. To achieve this goal, the author provides content, case examples, and questions for reflection to guide the reader in this ethics dialogue.
Audience: Given the nature of the content and the approach of the author, this book can serve as an introductory text on ethics for nursing students and staff nurses. The author is an associate professor in philosophy who teaches nursing ethics at Gonzaga University and who also serves as a healthcare ethics consultant.
Features: The author introduces general information about ethics and offers a framework for analyzing ethical problems. Three ethical approaches are described: rule, virtue, and feminist ethics. Virtue and feminist ethics are generally not well described in other nursing ethics books and content about these approaches is only beginning to be included. Following the presentation of each ethical perspective, the author provides a chapter that applies that perspective to a case using her five-step framework for decision making. The author grounds the analysis of the ethical problem in the relevant literature and attempts to portray how the dialogue might evolve among the specific participants/communities who are involved. Key points in each chapter are highlighted in boxes. Additional cases with discussion questions are included at the end of the application chapters. The final chapter demonstrates how each of the three ethical perspectives would analyze the same case focused on the frail elderly. This chapter is particularly helpful to the nurse who is trying to understand differences and similarities in the ethical approaches. Quite possibly this book would need to be used in conjunction with a book of cases in order that readers would have the opportunity to explore other ethical situations.
Assessment: This book is easy to read, interesting in its presentation, and very engaging. The in-depth discussion of virtue and feminist ethics makes this book stand apart from books such as Ahronheim, et al. Ethics in Clinical Practice, 2nd edition (Aspen Publishers, 2000), or Lo, Resolving Ethical Dilemmas: A Guide for Clinicians, 2nd edition (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000)