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Guest Opinion

Seven Banned Words: The Case for Nursing to Resist

Guest Opinion - Dec. 21, 2017

According to Washington Post article on Dec. 18, 2017 the Trump administration has reportedly banned seven words from any policies promulgated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diversity. Fetus. Transgender. Vulnerable. Entitlement. Science-based. Evidence-based.

Nursing is not partisan; however, our profession is guided by a code of ethics. When any person, political party or president encroaches too far on our professional ethical obligations, we must resist. In the past year, many of us have felt the hair on the back of our necks go up as the rhetoric and policies of authoritarian government push up against our professional oath.

Banning words that are critical to understanding and treating our patients is a clear step beyond the role of government and encroaches on the domain of our professional code. We must resist.

Timothy Snyder, a historian and author, recently wrote a book titled "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century." Lesson #5 is "Remember professional ethics." Snyder posits that standing up to tyranny must include professionals, like attorneys, doctors and nurses who refuse to forsake their professional ethics and become compliant obedient civil servants. He writes, "Professional ethics must guide us precisely when we are told that the situation is exceptional, then there is no such thing as 'just following orders’.”

We are indeed in extraordinary times. Studying history protects us from repeating the tragedies of past generations. If we don't learn from history, the times where resistance to authority is justified, we are doomed to repeat the worst of it.

We believe the path to prevent tyranny is to defend our patients, profession and civil liberty every time. And we should all ask, “if this stands, what words are banned next?”

As ONA members, we are proud that the ONA Cabinet on Health Policy has taken a position opposing the “Trump seven word ban.”

Submitted by ONA member Jacqueline Dillon, BSN, RN, PCCN

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