Do the ends justify the means? Nursing and the dilemma of whistleblowing

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2005, 23 (1), pp. 51 - 56
Issue Date:
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Background: Patient advocacy and a desire to rectify misconduct in the clinical setting are frequently cited reasons for whistleblowing in nursing and healthcare. Aim: This paper explores current knowledge about whistleblowing in nursing and critiques current definitions of whistleblowing. The authors draw on published perspectives of whistleblowing including the media, to reflect on the role of the media in health related whistleblowing. Conclusion: Whistleblowing represents a dilemma for nurses. It strikes at the heart of professional values and raises questions about the responsibilities nurses have to communities and clients, the profession, and themselves. In its most damaging forms, whistleblowing necessarily involves a breach of ethical standards, particularly confidentiality. Despite the pain that can be associated with whistleblowing, if the ends are improved professional standards, enhanced outcomes, rectification of wrongdoings, and, increased safety for patients and staff in our health services, then the ends definitely justify the means.
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