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Why Nurses obey unlawful orders

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Yasin's avatar
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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 30th October 2022 13:19
Why do Nurses obey unlawful orders??

The Hofling Hospital experiment:


In the experimental group 21 out of 22 (95%) nurses obeyed the doctor's orders and were about to administer the medication to the patient when a hidden observer stopped them.

Only one nurse questioned the identity of the researcher ('Doctor Smith') and why he was on the ward.

The nurses were not supposed to take instructions by phone, let alone exceed the allowed dose.

11 nurses who went to administer the drug admitted to being aware of the dosage for Astroten.

The other 10 did not notice but judged that it was safe as a doctor had ordered them to do so.

When other nurses were asked to discuss what they would do in a similar situation (i.e. a control group), 31 out of 33 said they would not comply with the order.


Hofling demonstrated that people are very unwilling to question supposed ‘authority’, even when they might have good reason to.

When the nurses were interviewed later, they pointed out that many doctors were in the habit of giving orders by telephone and became seriously annoyed if they were not obeyed.

Although such obedience was against regulations, the unequal power relations between doctors and nurses meant life would be very difficult if nurses did not do what they were told.

Hofling’s study showed how the social pressure brought about by the imbalance of power could lead to a nurse actually putting a patient at risk, rather than disobeying orders.”

The Nurses of the Third Reich also obeyed unlawful orders using the same excuse ie that the doctors would make their lives miserable if they disobeyed.

Many Nurses were brought to trial for mass murders, crimes against humanity, torture, euthanasia- as they simply “followed orders” issued by the doctors and killed and maimed countless innocent children …

The same is happening today: Nurses simply following unlawful orders.

Nurses have to determine what is a lawful order and what isn’t.

Yet how can they do this given:

- they weren’t taught law at school

- they haven’t learned enough law on the job, and

- they haven’t taught themselves the necessary law?

*So many/most appear to be unable to discern between lawful and unlawful orders.*

Time for compulsory legal education for the medical profession in my view:

it’s the only way we can hope to expect our medics to follow LAWFUL orders only and to be able to uphold our Rule of Law including our inalienable fundamental Right to Life which is compromised when medics don’t obtain lawful informed consent for medical interventions.

I propose that every medic must obtain a “certificate of legal competence” before being permitted to practice medicine.

They must be required to learn, understand and prove that they can uphold our Rule of Law as well as International and domestic Medical Ethics and principles of Morality.

They must be made to sit and pass an exam on these areas to enter the medical profession.

They must then be made to have regular reviews on their ability to uphold the Rule of Law, Ethics and Morals at regular intervals during their medical practice to ensure they have kept up to date with relevant legal, ethical and moral updates.

If they fail to be competent in these areas, they must be put on a Performance Improvement Plan to ensure their competency before being permitted to continue practicing medicine.

Should they fail to improve their legal, ethical and moral competence during the PIP, they must be suspended, investigated and held accountable and liable for their actions and omissions - including possible dismissal on the grounds of incompetence to practice medicine.

As an employment lawyer and a management consultant myself, this would be my advice to the management/managers of the medics.

Until this remedial work is complete, none of us can trust a medic to be competent to uphold our Human Rights.

Anna de Buisseret
U.K. Lawyer
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