The Mothers Ability to Hurt the Baby – Medical Ethics Example

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"The Mother’ s Ability to Hurt the Baby" is a worthy example of a paper on medical ethics. What would you do to resolve your selected case? Although it might upset the mother, at this point, to do the ethical thing I would need to know what steps social services want to take.   I would want to know their response at this point in the situation.   However, because they have not responded, I would have to find a way to calm the mother down and keep her from holding the baby.   Considering that the baby is in critical condition already and on the ventilator, my response would be to tell the mother that taking the baby off of its support systems would not be a good idea at this time.   I would tell her that she might be able to hold the baby later, depending on what everybody decides.

In my opinion, to keep the baby safe at this point, it needs to be kept away from the mother.   She has clearly only harmed the baby up until this point, and my decision is for the baby’ s own health and safety.   Furthermore, until social services make a decision, it is important to make sure the mother does not have a chance to do any further harm to her baby. What ethical principles are in conflict in the selected case study?

List each and support your reasoning. There are a few ethical principles in action in this case.   First, there is the right of mothers to be able to spend time with their children.   Generally, after a mother has given birth to a baby, she will be allowed to hold it, as long as it is seen as acceptable to the child’ s state of health.   In this case, though, the baby is not necessarily in a healthy condition, and the mother, herself, has caused the harm to the baby, so the best thing to do is to actually keep her away from the baby.   Another ethical conflict is the fact that the mother did tell me and nobody else about her use of the drugs.   Ultimately, as a nurse, I would be required to report this to social services or I could also be held liable, but it is certain that the mother did not know that and probably did not wish me to tell others.   However, this kind of secret cannot be kept because it has to do with the child’ s health. Will you support your decision of this case by the theory of utilitarianism or deontologist (non-consequentialism)?

Discuss why each theory does or does not apply. I do not feel that this situation permits utilitarianism.   Utilitarianism means picking the outcome that causes the most happiness for all of those involved.   In this situation, this is not possible, because the happiness of the mother cannot be allowed.   Because she has already done harm to the baby, there is no way to ethically solve this issue and make her happy.

Deontologism (Deontologism, n.d. ) can be applied to this case in a more successful stance.   Deontologism states that all things are basically done and all of those actions are inherently good or evil, regardless of the consequences.   There are certain aspects of this situation that can be viewed as either inherently good or bad.   For instance, my desire to help the baby can be seen as inherently good.   The mother’ s ability to hurt the baby, on the other hand, can be seen as inherently bad.

Discuss how you applied at least one of the provisions of the ANA code of ethics for nurses to justify your decision in the selected case study The aspect of the nurse’ s code that I certainly used here is a respect for human dignity, which is very important when being a nurse (Code of Ethics, n.d. ).  I have applied that respect to both the mother and the child.   First, by reminding the mother about the child’ s needs on life support, it will hopefully get her to desist with her requests to hold the baby without hurting her feelings or causing further damage to her esteem at this point.   Second, I have also shown human dignity toward the baby by doing what I feel is best for the baby.


Code of Ethics of Nurses (n.d.). American Nursing Association. Retrieved June 19, 2009, from.

Deontologism. (n.d.). Retrieved June 19, 2009, from

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