Five Historical Medical Ethic Cases - Minority Nurse (2023)

Jan 28, 2016 | Black and African-American Nurses, Black Nurses Rock, Blog

Five Historical Medical Ethic Cases - Minority Nurse (1)

Does the Constitution embrace a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion? What organization ensures medical studies is ethical? Is it acceptable for a patient to reject medical treatment that improves their quality of life?

The above questions are answered by previous cases considered to be landmarks in the medical and legal community. Several court decisions changed what is considered acceptable in the medical community. Explore the below five influential historical medial ethic cases.

Roe v. Wade

The 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade is still debated heavily in politics. Before this case, most of the United States’ laws only allowed women to get abortions if the life of the mother was in danger. The Supreme Court ruled in this case that the states was forbidden from outlawing or regulating abortions performed during the first trimester of a pregnancy. Although the court ruling was about 40 years ago, this is an issue for many that believe abortion is unethical.

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study is an infamous clinical study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the progression of untreated syphilis in poor black men in Alabama. This experiment took place between 1932 and 1972 and tricked participants into thinking they were receiving free health care from the government. The participants were unaware they would be infected with syphilis and left untreated. After a leak to the press, the experiments stopped, the Office for Human Research Protections was established, and federal laws were put in place that required Institutional Review Boards for studies that involve human subjects.

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Gonzales v. Oregon

In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide after enacting the Death with Dignity Act, which allows physicians to prescribe lethal drugs if the patient is terminally ill and within half a year of death. The Attorney General sought control of the situation under the Controlled Substances Act, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Oregon and said the Attorney General could not overrule state laws. Since then, California has also approved assisted suicide, and it is an ethical topic with growing importance in the medical community.

Bouvia v. Superior Court

Elizabeth Bouvia was mentally competent, yet she suffered from cerebral palsy that left her wholly dependent on others to live. In 1983, she expressed a desire to end her life through an attempt to starve herself in a California public hospital. The hospital eventually ended up inserting a nasogastric tube against her wishes. She sued the hospital. After an appeal, it was decided that the hospital should respect the patient’s wishes if they are sound of mind when they make that decision.

Sherley v. Sebelius

In 2008, The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Health was sued after President Obama took away some of the more strict guidelines and rules on stem cell research that President George Bush had put into place. It was decided in court that the NIH was following proper guidelines regarding stem cell research and the Supreme Court rejected to hear an appeal. Stem cell research is extremely controversial for many in the medical field because of the conflict of two very separate beliefs.

(Video) Medical Ethics: Bouvia v. Superior Court Case

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History doesn’t only repeat itself, but is also serves as a precedent especially when legal cases are concerned. These five historical medical ethics cases continue to impact the legal and medical field.


Conger, K. (2013). Supreme Court Decision on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Case Ends

Research Uncertainty. Retrieved From:


Fisher, L. (1987). The Suicide Trap: Bouvia v. Superior Court and the Right to Refuse

Medical Treatment. Retrieved from:

Gray, F. D.(1998). The Tuskegee Syphilis Study.Montgomery: New South Books.

Roe V. Wade: Its History and Impact. (n.d.) Retrieved from:https://www.plannedpa

Teitelbaum, J. & Rosenbaum, S. (2007). Gonzales v. Oregon: Implications for Public

Health Policy and Practice. Retrieved from:

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Founder and Registered Nurse at Nicole Thomas INC

Nicole Thomas is an educator, motivator, and purposeful living enthusiast. She has 11 years of experience in leadership, healthcare management, clinical knowledge, and business acumen. Her mission is to help female healthcare professionals to awaken their God-given purpose as a healthcare professional through education and empowerment. Nicole earned her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Southern University A&M College and her Masters of Nursing with a specialization in Nursing Education from Walden University. She is currently working on her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and forthcoming book entitled “In Health, On Purpose: Awakeningto Your True Calling in The Healthcare Profession"

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  1. Five Historical Medical Ethic Cases - Minority Nurse (4)

    KIMon January 29, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Great article! This reminded me of the many advances we have made and still have to make in health care. Regardless of your opinion about these cases what it has done is set a precedence and dialog for change. Kim Jones Williams, MSN, BSN, RN, CCM

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What are the top 5 ethical issues in healthcare? ›

5 Ethical Issues in Healthcare
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders. ...
  • Doctor and Patient Confidentiality. ...
  • Malpractice and Negligence. ...
  • Access to Care. ...
  • Physician-Assisted Suicide.

Is Roe v Wade an ethical issue? ›

America's practice of abortion is not merely a matter of medical technology but of a changing ethical consciousness. The continuing dispute over legalized abortion since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is a conflict between two historically different ethical views of human life.

What are the 7 major Ethical issues in nursing practice? ›

The ethical principles that nurses must adhere to are the principles of justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, accountability, fidelity, autonomy, and veracity.

Which nursing situation is an example of an ethical dilemma? ›

Examples of Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing

One ethical dilemma that can occur in healthcare facilities is when nurses themselves are not properly equipped to complete their duties. Nurses who notice their coworker's lack of knowledge face an ethical dilemma of whether they should bring the issue to their nurse manager.

Why is abortion an ethical issue in nursing? ›

A central ethical question in the abortion debate is over the moral status of the fetus. Opinions range from the belief that the fetus is a human being with full moral status and rights from conception to the belief that a fetus has no rights, even if it is human in a biological sense.

What exactly happened in Roe v. Wade? ›

The Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling on January 22, 1973, decriminalized abortion nationwide. It gave people the right to access abortion legally all across the country and freed patients to access the health care they needed when they needed it without fear.

What was the main issue in Roe v. Wade? ›

In 1970, Jane Roe (a fictional name used in court documents to protect the plaintiff's identity) filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, where she resided, challenging a Texas law making abortion illegal except by a doctor's orders to save a woman's life.

What are the 8 ethical issues related to healthcare? ›

The major 10 ethical issues, as perceived by the participants in order of their importance, were: (1) Patients' Rights, (2) Equity of resources, (3) Confidentiality of the patients, (4) Patient Safety, (5) Conflict of Interests, (6) Ethics of privatization, (7) Informed Consent, (8) Dealing with the opposite sex, (9) ...

What are the 9 Code of Ethics for Nurses? ›

In nursing, moral virtues are habits that confirm and promote the values of well-being, health, human dignity, respect, and autonomy.
The following are brief descriptions of each of the ethical principles.
  • Beneficence: ...
  • Nonmaleficence: ...
  • Justice: ...
  • Accountability: ...
  • Autonomy: ...
  • Fidelity: ...
  • Veracity:

What are the 10 ethical principles in nursing? ›

The search yielded 10 nursing ethical values: Human dignity, privacy, justice, autonomy in decision making, precision and accuracy in caring, commitment, human relationship, sympathy, honesty, and individual and professional competency.

What are some real life examples of ethical dilemmas? ›

16 Real-Life Examples of Ethical Dilemmas
  • Should parents monitor teens' social media activities? ...
  • Reporting an accident.
  • Ghosting in the workplace.
  • Medical care versus religious beliefs.
  • Misinterpret data deliberately?
  • Share my political leanings and risk losing clients?
  • Internet dilemmas.
16 Mar 2021

What are some examples of a medical ethics dilemma? ›

What are Ethical Dilemmas?
  • Advance directives.
  • Surrogate decision making.
  • Refusal of treatment.
  • Conflicts with caregivers.
  • Foregoing life-sustaining treatment.
  • Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) orders.
  • Other issues perceived as ethical problems.

What is the best example of an ethical issue in healthcare? ›

Patient Confidentiality

One of the biggest legal and ethical issues in healthcare is patient confidentiality which is why 15% of survey respondents noted that doctor-patient confidentiality is their top ethical issue in practicing medicine.

What are 10 examples of ethics? ›

of principles incorporate the characteristics and values that most people associate with ethical behavior.
  1. HONESTY. ...
  2. INTEGRITY. ...
  4. LOYALTY. ...
  5. FAIRNESS. ...

What are the 5 elements of ethics? ›

Here are 5 qualities you should develop to prove your strong work ethic.
  • Dedication. Your strong work ethic shows in every aspect of your business and the way you behave yourself. ...
  • Professionalism. When you conduct yourself in a professional way your strong work ethic shines through. ...
  • Dependability. ...
  • Accountability. ...
  • Gratitude.

What are the 4 basic types of ethical problems? ›

In LDRS 111 you were introduced to four different ethical dilemma paradigms: truth vs loyalty, short-term vs long-term, individual vs community, and justice vs mercy.

What are 3 legal and ethical issues that occur with end of life patient? ›

These issues include patients' decision-making capacity and right to refuse treatment; withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, including nutrition and hydration; "no code" decisions; medical futility; and assisted suicide.

What are the 3 ethical issues? ›

Unethical accounting, harassment, health and safety, technology, privacy, social media, and discrimination are the five primary types of ethical issues in the workplace.

What is ethical conflict in nursing? ›

Ethical conflict themes underlying the specialty areas included: differences in the definition of adequacy of care among professionals, the institution and society; differences in the philosophical orientations of nurses, physicians and other health professionals involved in patient care; a lack of respect for the ...

What are the 4 main ethical principles in nursing? ›

Nurses are advocates for patients and must find a balance while delivering patient care. There are four main principles of ethics: autonomy, beneficence, justice, and non-maleficence. Each patient has the right to make their own decisions based on their own beliefs and values. [4].

What kind of nurses do abortions? ›

Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants can provide early abortion care that is clinically as safe as physicians; Outpatient abortion is very safe, whether it is provided by physicians or by nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives or physician assistants.

Why is it called Roe vs Wade? ›

Roe v. Wade was named for "Jane Roe," a pseudonym of a Texas resident named Norma McCorvey, and Henry Wade — then-district attorney for Dallas County, Texas. In 1969, McCorvey was denied access to abortion because her pregnancy didn't pose a medical risk to her life.

What is Roe v. Wade in simple terms? ›

Wade was a 1973 landmark decision by the US Supreme Court that ruled that a state law that banned abortion was unconstitutional. The decision said that a woman's right to privacy extended to the fetus that she was carrying.

What was the impact of the Griswold v Connecticut ruling? ›

Connecticut case established — for the first time — a constitutional right to privacy regarding reproductive decisions that paved the way for the legalization of birth control for unmarried couples, and ultimately, Roe v. Wade and safe and legal abortion.

What idea was the decision in Griswold v Connecticut based upon? ›

In Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court identified a constitutionally protected right to privacy, which the court reasoned prohibited states from denying birth control to married couples.

What is the Dobbs decision? ›

The majority held that abortion is not a constitutional right as the Constitution does not mention it and its substantive right was not "deeply rooted" in the country's history, and that individual states have the authority to regulate access to abortion.

What are 5 medical issues relating to bioethics? ›

Some issues about which bioethics concerns itself:
  • Physician patient relationship.
  • Death and dying.
  • Resource Allocation.
  • Assisted reproductive techniques and their use.
  • Genetic testing and screening.
  • Sexuality and gender.
  • Environmental ethics.
  • Clinical research ethics.

What are the 5 principles of nursing? ›

The American Nurses Association (ANA) and other nursing leadership organizations outline these basic principles as a baseline for ethical nursing practice:
  • Benevolence. ...
  • Nonmaleficence. ...
  • Fidelity. ...
  • Accountability. ...
  • Veracity. ...
  • Patient autonomy.
5 Jun 2020

What are the 7 codes of ethics? ›

Seven golden ethical principles:
  • Be an ethical leader.
  • Use moral courage.
  • Consider personal and professional reputation.
  • Set the right tone at the top.
  • Maintain an enquiring mindset.
  • Consider the public interest.
  • Consider 'the right, the good and the virtuous' actions"
20 Feb 2019

What are the 5 rights in nursing? ›

One of the recommendations to reduce medication errors and harm is to use the “five rights”: the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route, and the right time.

What is ethics in nursing with examples? ›

Nurses have an obligation not to inflict harm and not to allow others to inflict harm. They must also promote good actions on behalf of their patients. Examples of nonmaleficence are always being truthful to patients and never allowing one patient to be harmed for the benefit of another.

What are the 7 standards of nursing? ›

  • American Nurses Association (ANA)
  • ANA Standards of Practice.
  • Standard 1. Assessment. ...
  • Standard 2. Diagnosis. ...
  • Standard 3. Outcome Identification. ...
  • Standard 4. Planning. ...
  • Standard 5. Implementation. ...
  • Standard 6. Evaluation.

What has been the biggest ethical challenge for nurses during the Covid 19 pandemic? ›

Primarily, the lack of full protection of nurses across the health industry has raised ethical questions such as the extent of their duty, scarce resources, and the failure of personal protective equipment.

What are ethical dilemmas give at least 3 examples and briefly discuss them? ›

Some examples of ethical dilemma include: Taking credit for others' work. Offering a client a worse product for your own profit. Utilizing inside knowledge for your own profit.

What are the 5 steps in resolving ethical dilemma? ›

RIGHT Decision Method
  1. Recognize the ethical dilemma.
  2. Identify points of view.
  3. Gather resources and assistance.
  4. Have a plan.
  5. Take action based on ethical standards.

What are the 7 major ethical issues in nursing practice? ›

The ethical principles that nurses must adhere to are the principles of justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, accountability, fidelity, autonomy, and veracity.

What is an example of medical ethics? ›

Ethical decision-making in healthcare.

For example, a patient may refuse care due to cultural/religious views, or may want an unnecessary treatment which may not be in his or her best interests; euthanasia is another example of a provider's sense of morals conflicting with his or her ethical obligations.

What is an example of an ethical dilemma in nursing? ›

Examples of Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing

One ethical dilemma that can occur in healthcare facilities is when nurses themselves are not properly equipped to complete their duties. Nurses who notice their coworker's lack of knowledge face an ethical dilemma of whether they should bring the issue to their nurse manager.

What is considered a top ethical issue in healthcare? ›

Patient Privacy and Confidentiality

The protection of private patient information is one of the most important ethical and legal issues in the field of healthcare. Conversations between a physician and a patient are strictly confidential, as is information about an individual's medical condition.

What are some of the common ethical issues faced by nurses today? ›

The 5 Current Ethical Issues in Nursing
  • Informed Consent.
  • Protecting Patient Privacy and Confidentiality.
  • Shared Patient Decision-Making.
  • Addressing Advanced Care Planning.
  • Inadequate resources and staffing.
8 Sept 2021

What is an example of an ethical dilemma in healthcare? ›

One of the most common scenarios when the empirical knowledge vs. religious belief ethical dilemma arises is when nurses are treating patients that are Jehovah's Witnesses. Their religious beliefs do not permit such patients to accept a blood transfusion.

What are the 4 medical ethics? ›

Four Pillars of Medical Ethics

Beneficence (doing good) Non-maleficence (to do no harm) Autonomy (giving the patient the freedom to choose freely, where they are able) Justice (ensuring fairness)

What are the three 3 types of ethical issues? ›

The three major types of ethics are deontological, teleological and virtue-based.

What are the 4 ethical theories in health care? ›

Principlism is a commonly used ethical approach in healthcare and biomedical sciences. It emphasises four key ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice, which are shared by most ethical theories, and blends these with virtues and practical wisdom.

What are some examples of ethical decision making in healthcare? ›

An example is patient triage: when a nurse must decide which of several needy patients requires immediate attention. That decision may depend on where the nurse can do the most good, or where the need is greatest, depending on the nurse's determination of the most just course of action.

What are some controversial issues in nursing? ›

Common Ethical Issues in Nursing
  • Giving Artificial Hydration and Nutrition. ...
  • Providing Futile Care or Agressive Interventions. ...
  • The Opioid Crisis. ...
  • Dealing with Noncompliant Patients. ...
  • Anti-Vaccine Dilemmas.
28 Feb 2019

What are the 10 codes of ethics? ›

Ethics Statement Examples for Associations
  • “Contribute to society and to human well-being, acknowledging that all people are stakeholders in computing.
  • Avoid harm.
  • Be honest and trustworthy.
  • Be fair and take action not to discriminate.
  • Honor confidentiality.
  • Perform work only in areas of competence”
17 Sept 2021


1. Think Cultural Health Case Study: Working with an interpreter
(HHS Office of Minority Health)
2. Why is failure to give patients timely access to their health records a failure of medical ethics?
(The BMJ)
3. A History of Diabetes: Care in Context
4. Doctor caught on camera laughing and cursing at a patient
(ABC News)
5. Ethical Considerations in Healthcare for Incarcerated Patients
(Uniformed Services University)
6. Current Controversies in Ethics, Law, and Nursing: Challenges of Dementia Care
(Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing)
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