This paper focuses on a scenario which reflects an ethical dilemma in a social work setting. Furthermore, making an appropriate decision concerning the ethical dilemma in the scenario will be analyzed using Reamer Ethical framework (Reamer, 2013)
Reamer Ethical Decision making framework
1. Identify the ethical issues and the social work values and duties that conflict
The Ethical dilemma I have encountered with regard to Emily’s scenario (4th) is where I would protect Emily’s privacy as my care for a colleague conflicts with me breaching her privacy due to my duty toward the clients as a social worker who engages with a highly vulnerable group of clients. Two key social work values conflict here are respect for persons and professional integrity (AASW, 2010).
2. The individuals, groups, and organizations likely to be affected by the ethical decision
There is a considerable number of stakeholders that could be affected by the ethical decisions I make as a Social worker concerning the issue Emily is facing at work. The individuals that can be affected by the ethical decision are Emely, Emily’s supervisor, manager and myself. Moreover, groups which will be affected by the decision include clients of Emily, other clients of the organization while the organization and the Social Work profession are considered as the organizations that can be affected by my decision.
3. All viable actions, involved participants and risks, and benefits of each action
The first course of action, do nothing, involves not reporting the unusual behavior of Emily or her intoxicated incident I confronted during work. Primarily, the participants involved in this option are me (Social Worker), my colleague; Emily and her clients. The benefit of this option is that Emily would not lose her job as her inappropriate behavior would not be revealed to the management. The risks of this option are that Emily may continue to become intoxicated during her work and it could have an adverse effect on her clients as clients would not receive quality service as they expect. Secondly, future clients and current clients could be affected as Emily’s clients would not probably recommend the organization and its services to any other client due to the poor service they received. Thirdly the image of the organization could be highly affected as the type of clients our organization represent are at a high risk and also vulnerable as they are young homeless people experiencing drugs and mental issues, thus Emily being intoxicated and delivering service to young people experiencing drugs and mental issues would not be ideal as her current behavior would not fit Organization and the service we deliver. Finally, her misconduct can interrupt my workflow as she is my co-worker in the street-based outreach program.
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The second course of action, reporting it entails reporting her inappropriate behavior to my manager. The participants in this option are, myself, Emily and the manger. The benefits of the option are that Emily’s clients would be referred to another Social worker who could provide much better service. Secondly, the Organisation’s image would not be affected. The possible risks are Emily would lose her job. Secondly, her mental and physical well-being can be affected negatively by losing her job right after experiencing her breakup.
The third course of action is probably acknowledging the fact that Emily decided to take sick leaves for few days to deal with her issue and protect her privacy until she is on sick leave but if she continues to behave inappropriately coming to work after her short break (meant to be a sick leave), I would probably have to tell my manager about Emily and then I would probably ask Emily to talk to the manager regarding her matter. The benefits are that the clients of Emily are not at a risk of receiving poor quality service. Secondly, Emily would not lose her job straight away and instead, she may be given some time to solve her issue. The possible risks are that Emily may get angry with me trying to get involved. Secondly, rebuilding a therapeutic relationship with some of Emily’s clients (if supervisor refers her cases to a colleague) would be difficult for the referred social worker as not all the clients may not have the stability due to their background.
4.Analysis of action based on reasons in favor and opposed to each action
Code of Ethics and legal principles. Australian Association of Social Worker Code of Ethics guides our practice as Social Workers in a more ethically acceptable way (AASW, 2010). Moreover, the first option of do nothing supports by the Ethical standard 3.1, respect for person states that the social workers should respect the human rights of individuals and groups. It supports the option one as I would be protecting the privacy of Emily by not revealing her misconduct to the manager (AASW, 2010). Moreover, the standard 3.1 also being supported by the charter of Human rights and responsibilities Act(Vic) section 13, ‘your right to privacy and reputation’. The second option of reporting stands in favor of ethical standards 3.3 and 5.3 ‘j’(AASW, 2010). Standard 3.3. reflects professional integrity value and it states that social workers make considered and ethically accountable professional decisions and it reflects on the option two as my decision would not be ethically and professionally benefits the clients and my organization (AASW, 2010). In addition, standard 5.3 ‘J’, under the responsibility towards colleagues code also supports the option two as the standard states that , “Social workers will address suspected or confirmed professional misconduct, incompetence, unethical behavior or negligence by a colleague through the appropriate organizational, professional or legal channels.”, likewise Social workers will familiarise themselves with the complaints processes of their workplace and with the AASW procedures for complaints against members” (AASW, 2010). Therefore, I would be following the standard 5.3 part ‘j’ as I would be reporting Emily because I have come to confirmed Emily’s misconduct of being intoxicated during work through her confession. Option three would support by two Ethical standards at two different instances where standard 3.1 supports it as I would protect Emily’s privacy until she recovers from her breakdown (till the end of intended sick leaves) and then the ethical standard 5.3 part ‘j’ would stand in support as I would report to the manager if Emily seems to continue her misconducts after returning from sick leaves as I have to give priority to my clients and the organization. (AASW, 2010).
Ethical theories, principles. The deontological ethical theory plays a role in favour to the option one as deontological theory only considers the actions taken as a part of our duty regardless of the end consequence (Kerridge, Lowe, & Stewar, 2013) it applies to this option as my decision would only be focusing on Emily and her privacy regardless of consequences at the end such as possible negative impacts on clients and organization. On the other hand, teleological theory can also be applied as it explains that right actions are performed for right consequences (moral philosophy) and in this case, I would not report Emily to the manager considering the results she may have to face such as losing her job (Kerridge, Lowe, & Stewar, 2013).
Teleological theory stands in favor of the second option as I would focus on the result to make sure Emily’ s clients and the organization has no effect due to her misconduct, therefore I report whereas deontological theory applies as I would report to the manager about Emily without considering the consequences she has to face afterward (Kerridge, Lowe, & Stewar, 2013).
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Third option is where both deontological and teleological theories play a role as first I would agree to protect Emily’s misconduct as that would be the ideal action to be taken without considering further consequences which reflect deontological theory while teleological theory comes to play as I would be reporting to the manager if her misconducts continues as I would be considering about the possible consequence that experience by my organization and its clients.
‘Four principle approach’ by Beauchamp and Childress (1979) consists of moral philosophy and I can identify two principles that reflect on the scenario which are justice and beneficence (McAuliffe, 2014). Option one competes with the principle of justice as I have not done the justice to my clients and the organizations whereas reporting her misconduct to the manger in the second option opposes the principle of beneficence as I have neglected my duty to care for my colleague’s welfare (McAuliffe, 2014). However, option three represents both as me taking Emily’s side reflects the good I did to help her in her difficult times while me reporting about her misconduct later justifies the principle of justice as I have right to be righteous to all the stakeholders as much as possible including Emily (McAuliffe, 2014).
Personal Values. Empathy is one of my core values which perfectly align with the option one as I do not want to report Emily as I can truly understand her situation and I do not want to put her in so much of troubles and also her experience resonates with one of my previous life while it is not reflected in the second option as my instinct cannot agree with the reporting action as it may bring harm to her. Integrity is another personal and religious value I resonate myself with and I believe my second option violates the integrity as reporting could add up more problems to Emily and I do not want that to happen as it is not morally rightful for me as I am a Buddhist who represents a culture represents morals teachings for generations. But the third options speak my core personal values of empathy and integrity as every stakeholder in the case being considered by me taking morally rightful actions to provide the best morally rightful opportunity to each one involved in Emily’s case.
Organizational policies. I would be referring to any sort of organizational policies which focus on the staff welfare and staff misconduct to gain a better understanding about the three courses of actions and to what extent each aligns with organizational policy (if has any).
With this case, if Emily returns to work with the same unusual behavior then I would consult my manager. The reason why I would consult my manager is that I wanted to get a sense of what his opinions on the case are and to see what his decision would have been. Also, he is the ideal individual who is highly familiarized with any existing organizational policies.
6. Decision and documenting the decision‐ making process.
The course of action I chose among three actions was the third option. The reasons to decide on this option is that considering other options it outweighs the benefits over risks in many aspects while resonating closely with my personal and professional values as a social worker who is adhered by the codes of ethics(AASW,2010). Reamer’s ethical decision-making framework is used to document the decision-making process (Reamer, 2013).
7. Monitor, evaluate and document the decision
I would monitor Emily through constant informal meetups at least twice a week. I would evaluate by scheduling a follow-up meeting with the manger in another two weeks. I would document the incident following the Organization policy while consulting the manager.
Based on the Reamer Ethical decision-making framework I have been able to analyze three courses of actions that would probably resonate with the ethical dilemma in the scenario where my respect for personal value conflicts with professional integrity value. Thus, considering all the viable opposing and favorable reasons concerning each course of action, I have decided to make my decision choosing the third option as it speaks louder than other two options for myself as in terms of my profession as a social worker and also as an individual who believes in moral values.
- Australian Association of Social Workers. (2010). Code of ethics. Canberra, A.C.T. Retrieved from https://www.aasw.asn.au/document/item/1201
- Kerridge, I., Lowe, M. & Stewart, C. (2013). principle-based Ethics. In Ethics and Law for the health professions, 4th ed. (pp. 124-135). Annandale: The Federation Press. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/20190918T200305_scwk90055_principles_based_ethics.pdf
- Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) (Austl.) Retrieved from https://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubStatbook.nsf/f932b66241ecf1b7ca256e92000e23be/54D73763EF9DCA36CA2571B6002428B0/$FILE/06-043a.pdf
- McAuliffe, D. (2014). Moral philosophy and ethical theory: setting the foundations. In Interprofessional Ethics (pp. 24-45). Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/20190918T185845_scwk90055_moral_philosophy_and_ethical_theory_setting_the_foundations.pdf
- Reamer, F. (2013). Ethical dilemma and decision making:A framework. In Social Work Values and Ethics (pp.47-94).Columbia University Press. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/unimelb/detail.action?docID=1103415
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