Nursing Notes

September 20, 2009

Junkfood Science: Who will speak out for you?

Here is another take on the article I posted yesterday.  Please go to her blog and read this in full.  She has more facts and data than the already published article and you really need to know about this.  Currently, this concerns nursing and nurses, but this could become a global issue when “whistle-blowing” is involved.


Medical professionals, especially nurses who are generally lower on the food chain, so to speak, are increasingly reticent to speak out when they see unsound, unethical or corrupt things going on in healthcare. It is hard to do the right thing. They know and see the consequences of following their consciences and the Code of ethics. This is not an isolated incident. Three California nurses were suspended after they reported a doctor who later admitted giving a lethal injection to a child and another nurse was threatened with firing after refusing to follow a doctor’s verbal order to administer morphine until a patient stopped breathing. A California nurse was threatened with firing for reporting unsafe patient care practices. A registered nurse in San Antonio was fired when she voiced concerns about unsafe staffing at a dialysis center. A San Antonio hospital posted a notice to employees that anyone who went outside the hospital with a report of unsafe or unethical practices violated the state’s “Safe Harbor Law” and would face discipline and even termination. This “violates the basic premise of whistle-blower laws — to free up an individual from the internal politics of the workplace,” wrote Linda R. Srungaram, RN, an experienced emergency room nurse.

Ann and Vicky courageously did the right thing and had the expertise to understand how patients could be harmed. Yet, they only came up against the interests of a single doctor. What do you think happens to nurses who might dare to report something unethical or corrupt that affects entire institutions, comes up against well-funded drug companies or counters powerful political interests?

If nurses following their professional ethics and good consciences are prosecuted for speaking out on behalf of patients, how many nurses will avert their eyes and shut their mouths when they see unsafe, unsound or unethical patient care or corruption, for fear of being hauled off on criminal charges?All nurses and healthcare professionals will be watching what happens to these nurses in court next week.But so should each of us.

© 2009 Sandy Szwarc

Junkfood Science: Who will speak out for you?

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