This isn't a term I have used since my law school contracts class. Unconscionable means unreasonable, unfair, and unjust. See http://webster.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?va=unconscionability
I spoke with a nurse this week. She signed a legal document with a Board of Nursing resolving a complaint filed against her. Almost one year later the nurse wanted to know about her appellate rights in this case.
She had heard that contracts could be voided if the contract was one-sided, unfair, and signed by one of the parties to the contract under duress. Unconscionability is a legal term and can depending on state case law be used to nullify a contract. The contracts involved are typically commercial and retail contracts.
She was told by Board staff that the Contract had to be signed and returned within a few days to the Board's office. She was under significant financial strain already and didn't really want to retain an attorney at that point. Also she didn't know where to find an attorney who handles these types of cases and she didn't want to retain the wrong attorney.
The Consent Agreements and Agreed Orders that I have reviewed over the years and have standard language that 1. Informs the nurse of his/her right to legal counsel and 2. Has language stating the nurse knowingly and voluntarily agrees to the language therein.
My comment to her was that you NEVER sign a legal document (whether its a licensure, workplace, or criminal matter) when you don't agree with or understand ALL of the language and conditions in the document.
What do you think? Do you think that Boards of Nursing should give nurses at least 30 days to review and consider these documents?
In my opinion, thirty days would provide a nurse with ample time to consider the document, to have the document reviewed by an attorney, or to retain an attorney. It is unfair and an abuse of power to provide a nurse with this type of legal document on a Tuesday and inform the nurse that the document has to signed and returned to the Board by Friday or the Board will proceed with formal disciplinary action.
Several nurses have told me that they ask Board staff if they need to retain an attorney and Board staff reply "we can't tell you if you need an attorney." This is how Board staff should answer. Its not their role to advise you whether or not to retain legal counsel. Board staff are Board employees, who represent and speak for the Board. Remember this is an adverserial process. Its not the job of the Board staff to inform the nurse of his/her options related to the licensure matter or to explain the licensure and employment implications of signing the document to the nurse.
HINT: If you think you need an attorney, then you do. Have we as nurses become so accustomed to being submissive and following orders that we need someone else to tell us that we need an attorney? Please say it aint so!