When Is Patient Education Unethical?

Nursing Ethics 15 (6):813-820 (2008)
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Although patient education is central to the ethical practice of nursing, it can be practiced in an ethically contested or unethical way. It is sometimes used to: forward a societal goal the individual might not have chosen; assume that patients should learn to accommodate unjust treatment; exclude the views of all except the dominant health care provider group; limit the knowledge a patient can receive; make invalid or unreliable judgments about what a patient can learn; or require a patient to change his or her identity to meet a medical ideal. Both health promotion education and manipulating patient beliefs in situations of uncertainty are ethically contested. Nussbaum's capabilities approach is used here as a moral framework through which to view the goals and practice of patient education. This provides better guidance than the current conception of patient education as an instrument to carry out the directives of medical practice



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