Carolina RN to BSN Online
Conceptual Bases of Professional Nursing Practice
Ethical Decision Making

Activity 1
Ethical Dilemma

Activity 2
Ethical Code

Exploring a Major Issue

Activity 3
NC Statutes

Living Wills

Activity 4
Applying Your Knowledge

Activity 5
Peer Relationships

Ethical Decision Making Model

Summary and Conclusion

Activity 6
Ethics Committee




Ethical Theories and Principles


Three major ethical theories give guidance to clinical ethics: teleology, deontology and the ethic of care. Similarly, Beauchamp and Childress (see reference list at end) have three well-developed guiding principles: autonomy, beneficence and justice. We will briefly review each theory and principle.


Teleology come from the Greek word "telos" which means "end". This theoretical approach justifies the goodness, rightness, or fairness of an act based on the predictable outcomes of such an act.

Plato was the first known teleologist, and he described the moral "telos" as the struggle to live a good, worthy life. Thus, an act was moral if it made you a better person, i.e., made your life more worthy for having performed it.

However, in contemporary bioethics, Mill's utilitarian principle of "the greatest good for the greatest number" has become the mantra of teleology. You may also recognize this approach as the moral underpinning of outcomes-focused decision making (or "how much can we cut and still receive an acceptable outcome"). Even evidenced-based practice derives its moral justification from teleology ,i.e., show me the evidence that something produces results before I will pay you to do it. All of this stands in contrast to deontology - which values both the act itself, on its own merits and the inherent dignity and worth of each individual.

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