Expert advice

Legal advice: Why does my manager says it's unethical to lend a patient my DVDs?

Giving, or even lending, something to a patient can be misconstrued, so obtain consent from your manager and follow the NMC code, says legal expert Marc Cornock.
Gifts to patients

Giving, or even lending, something to a patient can be misconstrued, so obtain consent from your manager and follow the NMC code, says legal expert Marc Cornock

Your manager is likely referring to an inverse gift-giving scenario instead of you receiving a gift from your patient, it is you who is giving the gift, even though it is just a loan and not a permanent gift.

Although in this case the normal situation is reversed, the unethical issue your manager seems to have concerns about is how giving a gift to a patient can be interpreted, and whether you are adhering to the Nursing and Midwifery Council code.

A gift from one person to another could be seen as a way of exerting power or manipulating a situation.

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Giving, or even lending, something to a patient can be misconstrued, so obtain consent from your manager and follow the NMC code, says legal expert Marc Cornock

Your manager is likely referring to an inverse gift-giving scenario – instead of you receiving a gift from your patient, it is you who is giving the gift, even though it is just a loan and not a permanent gift. 


Permission is needed before giving or lending something to a patient. Picture: Getty Images

Although in this case the normal situation is reversed, the unethical issue your manager seems to have concerns about is how giving a gift to a patient can be interpreted, and whether you are adhering to the Nursing and Midwifery Council code. 

A gift from one person to another could be seen as a way of exerting power or manipulating a situation. If, for instance, a patient gives a nurse a gift to ensure they receive preferential treatment, this could be problematic. 

No expectation

Similarly, you need to ensure that by lending a patient some DVDs your action is not misconstrued. Your patient needs to be aware that there is no expectation they will reciprocate in any way, and that no payment of any form is required. 

You need to have a full discussion with any relevant members of your team and your line manager, and obtain their agreement about what you are intending to do. You will also need to decide what will happen if the patient does not return the DVDs. A record will need to be made in the patient’s notes about this for clarification. 

Your thoughtfulness in providing your patient with a form of entertainment is generous, and provided it is dealt with appropriately it should be viewed as such. 

 

Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at the Open University

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