Examining an Ethical Dilemma: A Case Study in Clinical Practice


  • Deborah Narrigan CNM, MSN

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Deborah Narrigan, CNM, MSN, is a faculty member of the Graduate Program in Midwifery, Philadelphia University, and resides in Nashville, TN.

4003 Auburn Lane, Nashville TN 37215. E-mail: dnarrigan@worldnet.att.net


When clients and health care providers differ in their understanding of what is right or wrong, an ethical dilemma may arise. Such dilemmas occur in everyday clinical practice. Health care providers have the professional responsibility to analyze these dilemmas. A clinical case study of an ethical dilemma that occurred in a cross-cultural context is examined. The language of the client and provider differed, and no interpreter service was available. Given these conditions, the provider's ethical dilemma was whether, and if so how, to give safe, satisfying care that respected the needs of a client with limited English proficiency. Measuring the morality of the provider's decisions and actions using Rawls' ethical theory of social justice finds deficits. A 10-step Bioethical Decision-Making Model by Thompson is used to demonstrate one method for analyzing the moral dimension of a clinical scenario focusing on the decisions and actions taken by a midwife. Scrutinizing ethically challenging clinical encounters will result in better understanding of the moral dimensions of practice.