Whose Life is it Anyway? An Exploration of Five Contemporary Ethical Issues that Pertain to the Psychiatric Nursing Care of the Person who is Suicidal: Part Two

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This is the second of a two-part paper which focuses on five principal issues/questions which can inform mental health nurses’ ethical discourse around the matter of suicide. This second part focuses on the questions: is there such a phenomenon as a rational or appropriate suicide? And what role, if any, should mental health nurses occupy in assisted suicide?

We find that the relevant theoretical and ethical literature in this area suggests, at least for some, that there may very well be such a phenomenon as a rationale suicide, especially if the often cited myth that all people who complete suicide must ipso facto have a mental health problem, is scrutinized. Furthermore, the extant literature indicates that while for the majority of suicidal acts, mental disorders may be a necessary but not sufficient element; the suicidal process is not, however, synonymous with mental disorder phenomenology. Lastly, whether or not there is a role(s) for mental health nurses in assisted suicide is difficult to say because there is almost no indication in the literature that such views have been solicited and considered. Given mental health nurses’ often ‘front-line’ involvement in care of the person who is suicidal, there is an urgent need to canvass these views and include them in the debate. Lastly, given the content of current mental health nurses Codes of Ethics and Professional Codes of Conduct, there may be a need to revisit these codes in light of contemporary and changing views of assisted suicide.


To acquire a personal use copy of this work, contact John Cutcliffe at john.cutcliffe@wright.edu.



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