Code Gray: Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing

From The Fanlight Collection

Directed by Joan Sawyer

26 minutes / Color
Release: 1983
Copyright: 1983

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE! This multi-award-winning program documents four actual situations where nurses confront difficult ethical decisions, as they balance the often contradictory views of patients, family members, and other staff about what is best for their patients.

In the case of a newborn with profound and probably fatal birth defects, nurses must decide what level of care represents beneficence, or "doing good." The staff in a nursing home must decide between respect for a patient's autonomy and the need to restrain her to prevent injury. Nurses in an intensive care unit make daily decisions about the allocation of beds and nursing resources in accordance with the principle of justice. A nurse caring for terminally ill patients faces a conflict between fidelity to her commitment to relieve suffering, and the promises made to the patient's family.

Code Gray offers no easy answers to their questions. It is designed to trigger discussion among nurses, physicians, other health workers and consumers about the realities of nursing in a technologically complex world. It will be invaluable for students preparing to enter the healthcare professions.

"A compelling film about the realities of nursing in a technologically complex world, where the humanity of both patients and nurses is often in jeopardy."—Mila Ann Aroskar, Society for Health & Human Values

"Acknowledges the crucial 'here and now' bedside decision making nurses routinely shoulder, and caringly illuminates the hidden responsibilities of nursing."—Booklist

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Produced & Directed by Joan Sawyer in collaboration with Christine Mitchell, RN; Photographed & edited by Ben Achtenberg

Select Accolades

  • Academy Award Nomination, Best Documentary
  • First Prize, San Francisco Intl. Film Festival
  • CINE Golden Eagle
  • First Prize, American Journal of Nursing
  • First Prize, Assn. for Critical Care Nursing
  • Red Ribbon, American Film Festival
  • American Academy of Nursing Awards
  • Assn. for Practical and Professional Ethics
  • Sigma Theta Tau


Chronicles one physician's exploration of how to try and meet the needs of the dying and their families.

Maren Grainger-Monsen, M.D. | 1998 | 52 minutes | Color | English