Complementary therapies in practice: the ethical issues

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SummaryThis article explores some of the ethical issues associated with the use of complementary therapies in practice.The adopted terminology and related concepts are clarified. The term 'complementary therapy' is compared and contrasted with 'alternative medicine' and 'non-conventional therapy'.The increasing emphasis on holistic nursing care is also discussed.Ethical issues of patient choice, informed consent and the principle of beneficence are examined in relation to complementary therapies.The article highlights the obligation of the nurse, midwife or health visitor to provide or facilitate holistic care including complementary therapies, such as massage or aromatherapy, for those clients who request such care, and where it can be demonstrated that there will be benefits for the patient.It is concluded that nurses should consider the possibility of incorporating or facilitating certain complementary therapies in their practice in order to benefit their patients. There is a corresponding need for an appropriate knowledge base, founded on nursing research, into the effectiveness and outcomes of complementary therapies. In addition, relevant educational courses should be developed.

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