Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions - RD80

Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions

by Dale Ames Kline, MS, RD, LD and Megan Dennis Baumler, PhD, RD, CD
(4.4 / 263 ratings )

This course is credentialed for:
Dietetics/Nutrition (8.00 CPEU)

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When the attending physician recommended discontinuing all life-sustaining measures for his mother, who had been placed on a ventilator after a serious stroke, Mr. O’Connor and his sister agreed. After a sleepless night he called the physician with a change of heart regarding the nutrition support. “She fed everyone in town. I don’t want her to starve to death.” How often do you encounter a situation that has ethical implications? The answer may be fairly often if you’re practicing as an RDN in today’s complicated healthcare environment. How do dietitians know what the ethical choice is in a complicated dilemma? Having the ability to work through these real-life situations in a systematic and ethical manner can maintain professional integrity while recognizing an individual patient’s physical and emotional needs, as well as cultural experience, to ensure dignity in care decisions.


The goal of this course is to understand the ethical dilemmas that nutrition professionals may encounter, and to become equipped with the skillset to approach and resolve the dilemma as an educated professional. After studying the information presented here, you will be able to:
  • Define the legal and medical terminology used in bioethics
  • Discuss current ethical issues of health care, especially those related to nutrition
  • Explain the history and evolution of bioethics, and the philosophical foundations for current court decisions
  • List the organizations which are concerned with ethical standards in health care
  • Define the concept of moral or ethical decision-making, and cite examples of moral decisions
  • State and discuss the dietitian’s role in resolving ethical dilemmas concerning feeding of critically ill patients, which are likely to arise in day-to- day practice
  • Illustrate the role of the ethics committee in an ethical dilemma situation and how the dietitian may provide input in assessing patient nutritional issues
  • Explain the current state statutes that define the law concerning withdrawing and withholding of feeding
  • Define the concept and execution of advance directives, and cite the states that recognize these devices
  • Recommend current literature and resources that offer further reading in the ethical issues of healthcare
  • Identify components of the code of ethics for registered dietitians and how these guidelines specifically impact daily tasks of a practitioner 
  • Analyze ethical dilemmas using moral judgement theory
  • Examine an ethical dilemma from the patient’s, professional’s, and society’s viewpoint
Course content may take a few minutes to display fully.

Accreditation Information
This course is intended for an interprofessional audience, including dietitians and health educators.
Dietitians: Take this version of the course to ensure you receive appropriate credit.
For the version accredited or approved for another profession, go to your specific profession at If you have a CE Direct login ID and password (generally provided by your employer), please log in as you normally would at and search for this topic title.
OnCourse Learning is a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Accredited Provider (#GD001) with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). This course is a level 2 course with suggested CDR learning codes of 1050, 5100, 5390, 5410, 5430, 7110, and performance indicators of 1.1.1, 1.1.3, 1.1.4, 1.1.6, 1.1.8, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, 1.2.6, 1.3.4, 1.4.1, 11.3.1.
OnCourse Learning is also accredited by the Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition (provider # FBN 50-1489).
This program has been approved for fulfilling the continuing education requirements of the Certifying Board for Dietary Managers (CBDM). Granting prior approval does not constitute endorsement of the program content or its program sponsor.

Course Originally Released on: 3/4/2011
Date of Most Recent Review: 3/7/2018
Course Termination/Update Date: 2/28/2023

Unless stated above, the planners and authors of this course have declared no relevant conflicts of interest that relate to this educational activity. OnCourse Learning guarantees this educational activity is free from bias.

Please see CE Course Instructions to learn how to earn CE credit for this module.


For Florida professionals:

If this course is approved by the Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition, this course completion will be electronically reported to CE Broker as required per Florida Statute 456.025(7). Click here to view your CE Broker transcript and check the status of your CE requirements with a FREE 7-day CE Broker trial subscription. It may take up to 24 hours for the course to appear on your CE Broker transcript.

It is now required that all CE is completed and reported to CE Broker before you renew your license. When you complete continuing education with us, OnCourse Learning will report your hours for you.

Read more about the new license renewal process at and claim your free Basic Account in CE Broker to see what has already been reported for you.

Please check the licenses/certifications section under my account (after logging in) to make sure you have entered a valid FL license number. This information is required for correct reporting of your course completions to CE Broker.

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Kumkum K - Detroit, MI  ·  Sep 18, 2018
well written. I learnt a lot about ethical issues to use as a dietitian. My role and rights to deal with the physician who writes wrong diet rx.Learnt about several ethical court orders related to medical ethical issues in nutrition support.Improtance of including family and patient (if possible) in the discussion. Aspen's positions and ADA's position on ethical issues of feeding critically ill patients.
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Marie D - West Chester , PA  ·  Aug 30, 2018
Test questions are Not in order with the text so take notes well!
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Anne Y - Booneville, MS  ·  Aug 19, 2018
This course is packed with a lot of very good, thought provoking information. I took it because we have to have ethical CEU's and I am glad I did and that it is required for each cycle.
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Katherine L - Lutz, FL  ·  May 31, 2018
Learning about ethical dilemmas and decisions in Dietetics practice is crucial for all Registered Dietitians and DTRs. Making ethical decisions is one way to promote pt advocacy and do the right thing for the patient.
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Tara F - Huntersville, NC  ·  May 31, 2018
very good content, helps to bring to light a lot for the ethical issues that can arise for a dietitian
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+ online BOOK
Price: $127.00
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Price: $109.00
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