Controversies in nursing ethics: a historical review


  • Douglas P Olsen RN CS

    Corresponding author
    1. Student (PhD Candidate), Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Psychiatric Emergency Services Clinician, Waltham–Weston Hospital and Medical Center, Waltham, and Instructor, Curry College, Milton, Massachusetts, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

s Mr D P Olsen, 139 Riverside Drive, Dedham, Massachusetts 02026, USA


The author critiques the dialectic between justice-based ethics and an ethic of caring from a historical perspective (by analogy with the dialectic between agape and friendship) Justice-based ethics have been problematic for nursing because of the decontextualized approach The ethic of caring is problematic because caring, being contextual, is particularistic and therefore can be based on morally irrelevant factors, such as liking There is a tradition of writing which seeks to reconcile the particularistic obligations of friendship with the moral duty to all others equally Ideas from the following authors are reviewed for relevance to nursing Aristotle, Aelred of Rievaulx, Augustine, John Cassian, Cicero, George Berkeley, Immanuel Kant, Michel de Montaigne, Jeremy Taylor and Max Weber The author concludes by noting that both sides of the dialectic are synthesized in the lived experience of individuals A synthesis in thought is called for on this basis