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The American Association
of Nurse Attorneys

Forced Urinary Catheterization by Nurses for Police: “Reliable and Accepted” or “Wanton Misconduct”

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Emergency nurses often face ethical dilemmas in their interactions with law enforcement. One such dilemma arises when police order emergency nurses to forcibly catheterize a resisting arrestee in order to collect a urine specimen for the sole purpose of obtaining evidence of drug or alcohol use. Although the procedure is invasive and serves no medical purpose, police argue it could produce evidence to protect public health and safety by keeping dangerous drivers off the road. This presentation assesses the ethical implications of the practice for nurses through a review of clinical literature, state laws, and court cases. It concludes that the practice violates nurses’ principal ethical obligations to hold a patient’s welfare as our primary commitment and does little to promote public health and safety. Therefore, hospitals and professional nursing organizations should issue policies and position statements to clarify for nurses, judges, law enforcement officers, and legislators that internally catheterizing unwilling people for the sole purpose of obtaining urine samples as evidence for police is antithetical to the values of nursing. Learner Objectives Understand how and why nurses are ordered to perform medically unnecessary urethral catheterization of people in police custody. Consider the risks and benefits to the arrestee, and to public health, of forced, medically unnecessary urethral catheterization. Evaluate the ethical implications of this practice for nurses in light of clinical literature as well as statutory and regulatory requirements. Propose alternatives to current practices and changes to hospital, law enforcement, and judicial policies. Presenter Etan Yeshua, JD, MSN, RN; VHC Health; Washington, DC. CE & CLE This webinar is approved for Nursing CE and CLE with the Pennsylvania state bar.
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