Ethics in Nursing – A South African Perspective

Yolanda Havenga, Annie Temane, Tendani Ramukumba, Anna Nolte

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Ethics and health care in South Africa is largely influenced by biomedical ethical principles and Western values, concepts and theories. The history and highlights in nursing ethics in South Africa has not been well documented. Colonising thinking and actions are spread throughout the nursing profession with the indigenous worldview under-examined in ethics in nursing. There is minimal incorporation of postcolonial concepts, specifically about ethics and indigenous knowledge in health care. For nursing to remain relevant in South Africa decolonisation is critical. The decolonisation process involves, among others asserting and stimulating discussions about indigenous knowledge to reveal the abundance and richness of indigenous languages, worldviews, teachings and experiences. Decolonising of nursing, health care and nursing ethics within the context of the nursing profession is critical to address the current health challenges faced by the population of South Africa. This chapter addresses the history of ethics in nursing in South Africa, with a focus on colonisation and post-colonisation, current ethical issues in nursing related to healthcare systems and the African ethic perspective of Ubuntu. Strategies for applying ethical principles from a colonisation counter-narrative are described within the context of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is perceived to be at the epicentre of decolonising nursing, health care and nursing ethics. The authors believe that the Ubuntu ethics and indigenous knowledge systems can be incorporated in the nursing profession to promote new ways of caring for healthcare users in South Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvancing Global Bioethics
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameAdvancing Global Bioethics
ISSN (Print)2212-652X
ISSN (Electronic)2212-6538


  • Decolonisation
  • Ethics
  • Nursing
  • Professionalism
  • Ubuntu
  • Western values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Issues, Ethics and Legal Aspects
  • Health (social science)
  • Health Policy


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