To Pray or Not to Pray: A Question of Ethics
British journal of nursing (Mark Allen Publishing) 2011 Oct 13-27; 20(18): 1198-200, 1202-4
There is a widespread belief that nurses have a duty to provide spiritual care. However, many feel there is still a need for debate surrounding the ethical use of prayer in both nursing research and practice. By using critical reflections and evidence-based literature, this paper develops a discourse on the ethics of prayer as a spiritual intervention in nursing and health care practice. Several key ethical issues are highlighted. In regards to research, lack of informed consent is a major concern in both research and nursing practice. Key ethical issues in practice include questions around intention and authority, e.g. despite the religious beliefs of the nurse, intentions to proselytize must be avoided to protect patient autonomy and avoid abuse of the nurse's authority. Furthermore, prayer has unknown side effects and implications. This paper concludes that, in practice, nurses must reconcile their personal, spiritual beliefs with their professional duties, and while this may be a delicate balance, it is not yet appropriate to encourage or dissuade a patient from their beliefs until appropriate research evidence is produced.
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