Extending the theory of awareness contexts by examining the ethical issues faced by nurses in terminal care

Nurs Ethics. 1997 Sep;4(5):370-9. doi: 10.1177/096973309700400503.


The breaking of bad news in a hospital setting, particularly to patients in a terminal condition, highlights some complex and often emotive ethical issues for nurses. One theory that examines the way in which individuals react to bad news such as a terminal illness, is the theory of awareness contexts. However, this theory may be limited by failing to recognize the complexity of the situation and the ethical issues involved for nurses caring for terminally ill patients. Furthermore, contexts of awareness are influenced to a much greater extent by relationships with nurses than simply by the delivery of medical information. Even when information is given to the client and the family, the nurse is involved in helping them to know the meaning of this information. In a hospital, the nurse is faced with emotional demands by clients, families and colleagues, complex issues of advocacy, and professional boundaries and responsibilities. It is the author's wish to examine the reality of clinical practice for nurses, thus further extending the theory of awareness contexts.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Awareness*
  • Ethics, Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / nursing
  • Lung Neoplasms / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Theory*
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Terminal Care / psychology*
  • Truth Disclosure*