Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher born in 1724 and has a tremendous impact on the modern philosophy. He belonged to the age of the enlightenment era, and his major interests were in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics of which the latter reflects more in healthcare than the first two. His ethical perspectives are applied in the understanding and delivery of nursing through ethical principles such as duty, reason, and freedom among others.
Nurses play a significant role in protecting lives just like it is an issue for rational beings to be moral. Immanuel Kant insisted in his philosophy the importance of moral ethics. The rules on how to conduct oneself are essential to guide people on how to act because not all humans are rational beings (Meleis, 2011).It is for that reason that today nurses are trained to conduct themselves based on the ethical principles of nursing. The aspect of goodwill was also emphasized by Kant which he explained that people needed to act purely based on the duties accorded to them. Therefore, he contributed to the nursing theory on the need to discharge their duties with a clean heart and conscience to help the patients under their care. Despite the challenges that some nurses face in their daily duties such as fatigue and poor working conditions, they should be motivated to work based on goodwill. In this context, goodwill is used to mean making moral decisions without thinking about pain or unhappiness one may be experiencing (Mandal, Ponnambath & Parija, 2016).
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His philosophy guided healthcare leaders to treat healthcare through a rational approach to ethical decision making. Kant’s philosophical insights still guide the health circles in modern times despite his demise over 200 years ago. He took what is popularly known as a deontological approach to ethics that demands one to be duty bound (Meleis, 2011).One’s duty should be based on ethical demands. Today’s nurse is expected to make moral, ethical decisions independently without outside influence or coercion or to serve personal interests and satisfaction. Kant’s ethical principles have underlined the delivery of healthcare today. He influenced the ideas behind the ethical code of conduct for nurses which are in practice today. Nurses are expected to appeal to these ethical principles to justify their actions. A modern principle about nursing care demands that each client should be treated as an individual and not based on prior knowledge or experience (Meleis, 2011).This is a similar view held by Kant who distinguished between reality and experience. According to Kant, the moral obligation was to be universalized meaning it was to be applied to all people regardless of the situations. That is similar to the nursing call which embraces the same ethical ideals that healthcare should be administered to all those who need it. The bottom-line is “duty to call,” a philosophical phrase that Kant always emphasized. Also, one’s actions should be guided by a universal law that is morally acceptable. That is in line with what is expected of medics nowadays where they ought to be guided by universal medical ethical principles outlined in their code of conduct.
In conclusion, it cannot be escaped that Kant’s ethical perspectives are incorporated in medical ethics today and had revolutionized other upcoming theories. He was probably the most influential philosopher in the realm of moral thinking and thus guided ethical principles that were applied in nursing theories. Kant also influenced the development of bioethical theories that are used to offer moral guidance to healthcare personnel. Despite receiving criticisms from other quarters that his ethical principles cannot solve the current challenges in the medical ethics, it cannot be wished away that Kantian moral theory shaped the moral principles envisaged in the nursing theories.
- Mandal, J., Ponnambath, D. K., & Parija, S. C. (2016). Utilitarian and deontological ethics in medicine. Tropical Parasitology, 6(1), 5–7.
- Meleis, A.I. (2011). Theoretical Nursing: Development and Progress. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.