In this blog, lets learn about social work ethics and some dilemma. Professional ethics are at the core of social work. Ethical awareness is a fundamental part of the
professional practice of social workers. Their ability and commitment to act ethically is an
essential aspect of the quality of the service offered to those who use social work services.
Ethics are propositional statements (standards) that are used by members of a profession or group
to determine what the right course of action in a situation is. Ethics rely on logical and rational
criteria to reach a decision, an essentially cognitive process (Reamer,1995).
Dictionary defines 'Ethics' as principles or rules for deciding what is good, just and humane, or,
for deciding what 'ought' to be. Thinking the situation through very ‘rationally’ often does not
help in putting one's finger on what ought to be done. Ethics refer to the rules that define what
types of behavior are appropriate and what types of behavior are inappropriate. Different
individuals, families, groups, organizations, or communities may declare or abide by different
ethics. Whereas values identify a person’s sense of “what is good,” ethics identify a person’s
senseof “what is right” (Dolgoff, Loewenberg, & Harrington, 2009). Values are priorities or
ideals, whereas ethics are rules of behavior that should be based on these priorities or ideals. In
essence, ethics are “the application of values to human relationships and transactions” (Levy,
1993, p. 1).
Professional ethics are rules that guide social workers or other professionals in the choices that
they make in their professional capacities. Personal ethics are rules that guide people in their
private lives, in their roles as parents, family members, friends, neighbors, citizens, and so
forth(Beckett and Maynard, 2005).As a social worker, you will find that manyof your personal
ethics fit with your professional ethics. For instance, if you believe in your personallife that it is
important to confront racism and oppression, your ethical obligation as a professional social
worker to promote social justice will simply be an extension of your personal ethics. Professional
ethics tend to be codified in agency policies, laws, or professional codes of conduct and
standards of practice.
Further, social work textbooks, including the present one, provide social
work professionals with guidelines for making informed ethical decisions.
Ethical problems refer to any situations involving an ethical issue—a question of right or wrong
behavior—to be decided. An ethical dilemma is a specific type of ethical problem in which the
choice of how to respond to the issue is particularly difficult(Beckett and Maynard, 2005).When
someone is faced with an ethical dilemma, there is no clear, singular response that satisfies all
the considerations that need to be taken into account.
Code of Ethics in Social Work
The Code of Ethics establishes a set of ideals and principles for social workers that have guided them throughout history. While circumstances and cultural norms change, social workers are expected to make ethical decisions guided by the code of ethics ( Barsky, 2010). It provides social workers with a framework for resolving ethical challenges that happen on a daily basis.
Social workers must have a strong basis in their profession's core beliefs in order to make ethical decisions with their clients and colleagues. Additionally, the code of ethics includes additional precise standards to aid social workers in making ethical decisions regarding their clients' treatment and service. The social work code of ethics may affect a variety of areas, including client informed permission, client privacy in a group treatment context, and the amount of confidentiality in the event of a legal scenario (Barsky, 2010).
In 1960, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in the United States of America authorized a written code of ethics for social workers, which was revised in 2008. The code created a set of fundamental values for the field of social work. The code of ethics includes the following values: service, social justice, individual dignity and worth, the value of human connections, integrity, and competence. Additionally, the NASW Code of Ethics contains ethical standards that are based on each of the basic values. For instance, the ethical principle stated in the code of ethics value of service is "Social workers' primary purpose is to assist individuals in need and to address social problems." The code of ethics establishes a broad framework for the objectives to which all social workers should aspire.
These ethical principles relate to all facets of a social worker's professional activity, including the social worker's ethical duties to clients, colleagues, the social work profession, and broader society ( Barsky, 2010).
In 1997, the Social Work Educators Forum (SWEF) at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai drafted a Declaration of Ethics for Professional Social Workers. It is an attempt to contextualise professional ethics within the perspective of the Indian setting. Emphasizes the Indian ideological notions of sarvodaya, swarajya, and lokniti's values. It establishes the value framework, ethical responsibilities to clients and society, and general guidelines for acceptable professional standards ( Joesph and Fernandes, 2006).
Ethical Dilemmas in Social Work
Ethical decision-making is a difficult process to master. In this day and age, social workers are learning a great deal about the nature of ethical problems and sound decision-making procedures. Although it is possible that even the most straightforward set of decision-making principles will give simple solutions to complicated ethical challenges, there is no guarantee that this will be the case. When a given situation necessitates the social worker prioritising one ethical principle above another, or when one's personal values are in contradiction with the best practises defined by our profession, an ethical dilemma arises ( Barsky, 2010). Ethical problems are always concerned with the question of what is the RIGHT action to take in a particular circumstance.
Ethical issues can come in a variety of forms and sizes. Many of these involve the provision of social services to individuals, families, couples, and small groups by social workers. For example, disclosing confidential information without a client's permission (such as when a client threatens to harm himself, herself, or another person); restricting a client's right to self-determination against his or her wishes (such as pursuing involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation of an emotionally troubled client); or maintaining social contact with a former client are all examples of ethical violations ( Barsky, 2010).
Other ethical quandaries arise in the administration of organisations, community service, social policy, and research. Administrative decisions about the allocation of scarce or limited agency resources (what moral philosophers refer to as distributive justice issues), conflicts of interest among employees, and the use of ethically questionable marketing strategies to solicit clients are all examples of ethically questionable decisions.
Other ethical quandaries arise as a result of the connections between professional colleagues. In the social work field, common instances include a social worker's response to a coworker who has violated ethical standards or who is physically or mentally disabled or incompetent (the ethics of "whistleblowing"). (2010); (Parrott, 2010).
Determining whether to take a deontological or teleological approach
A common division among ethical thinkers is between teleologists, or relativists, who believe that what is right is determined by the consequences of a decision, and deontologists, or absolutists, who believe that what is right is not determined by consequences, but that certain actions are inherently right or wrong regardless of the consequences (Reamer, 1995). There is a distinction between aims and means, or between outcome and process, represented by these two camps. According to the former, a decision is ethical if it results in a good outcome, whereas the latter contends that a result cannot be truly excellent until it is obtained through good processes (or procedures).
A deontological approach (i.e., laws that are absolute and apply at all times) appears to be exceedingly rigid. It is not possible to determine the correctness or incorrectness of an activity based on its outcomes (Beckett and Maynard, 2010). The following are examples of deontological statements: Always tell the truth, always obey the law, and never kill an innocent person are just a few. When excellent principles lead to negative consequences, the deontological method has a flaw, which is evident. For example, revealing the truth can result in significant harm if those with bad purpose utilise the truth to track down and kill innocent people in the process. The deontological approach suffers from another shortcoming when two or more ethical principles are in conflict with one another, which is, by definition, a situation that results in an ethical dilemma.
When it comes to ethics, the teleological approach is founded on the fundamental idea that "good ends can justify the means" (Joesph and Fernaded, 2006). This point of view in moral philosophy states that one's ethical obligation is decided by the goodness of the consequences that are expected to follow from a certain action.
As a result, the decision maker's attention should be focused on potential results rather than on conclusions about whether a certain action is ethically right or bad.
When applied to teleological approaches, it can appear as if principles are ignored and that any procedure that leads to positive outcomes is permitted. Considering things from the standpoint of teleology, individual activities are justified if they create desired consequences for the individual, but group actions are justified if they provide wanted results for the majority. Taking a teleological approach, one would accept stealing to feed the hungry, lying to acquire personal benefit, and subjugating a minority in order to provide economic advantages for the majority. This perspective appears to disregard the rights of minorities, and it appears to believe that techniques are justified by the outcomes they produce.
It is further separated into two primary schools of thought: egoism and utilitarianism, which are both teleological approaches.
Those who believe in egoism believe that people should pursue their own self-interests and that good will be attained as a result of their actions. Utilitarianism holds that a course of action is correct if it promotes the greatest amount of good. Both egoism and utilitarianism are concerned with the final result, but the former is concerned with the end result for each individual while the latter is concerned with the end result for the greatest number of individuals (Reamer, 1995).
When two or more ethical principles conflict with one another, the prospect of a dilemma arises. It is impossible to fulfil a desire to act in line with correct principles if two of those principles are in conflict with one another. If both principles are correct and one must choose between them, one cannot engage in ethical activity because ethical behavior has previously been defined as action that is consistent with the principles that are in conflict with one another. As an example, Reamer (1995) proposes that prioritised lists of ethical principles be developed, with the instruction that each principle should be followed in order of importance as a means of addressing the problem.
Every profession, including social work, is faced with ethical quandaries from time to time. When attempting to navigate through the minefield of unique ethical difficulties, it is critical to grasp the ethical considerations that must be taken into account by all parties involved. Among these are (a) five key clarifications (b) three crucial distinctions (c) five important principles, all of which are now being discussed further (source: Joseph and Fernandes, 2006).
5 Important Justificaion
Certain critical distinctions must be made at the outset to ensure that social work professionals do not waste time unravelling an ethical dilemma that does not exist.
(a) Ethical Issues vs. Human Difficulties - While all ethical dilemmas are human dilemmas, not all human dilemmas are ethical dilemmas. For instance, the human issue of choosing between a lower-wage job and a higher-wage job is not an ethical one.
(b) Right and Wrong, as opposed to Guilt and the Absence of Guilt- While individuals can make incorrect choices, a critical distinction must be established between an individual acting morally incorrectly and an individual being guilty of wrongdoing.
(c) Ethical vs. Legal Perspectives - The concept of an action/decision being morally correct or incorrect is distinct from the concept of an action/decision being legally correct or incorrect.
(d) Is ethics a maximalist or a minimalist discipline?- A code of ethics for a profession must focus on the bare minimum requirements of the field and cannot legislate or require the maximum ( greatness or goodness).
(e) Ends and Means vs. Choosing Between Two Values/Disvalues- This method shows that it is never a question of whether the ends justify the means, but rather of having to choose between two values or disvalues.
Three Essential Distinctions
It is critical to grasp some ethical issues that can assist in making the appropriate choice between competing ideals.
(a) Dignity and Wellbeing Values- Could we ethically justify harming one innocent person by claiming that it was for the welfare of a large number of people using the concept "the greatest good for the greatest number"? Never should dignified principles such as self-respect and fairness be surrendered for the sake of welfare.
(b) Moral evil and non-moral evil—Another term for non-moral evil is one that is unrelated to ethical ideals. For instance, injustice is a moral wrong, whereas suffering is a non-moral wrong. Thus, the ethical premise is that we may never deliberately design a moral wrong for the sake of a greater good.
(c) Direct and indirect acts- The distinction between an act that directly harms someone (pushing someone into a roaring river) and an act that indirectly harms another (opening a dam sluice gate, causing a sudden flow of water into a canal and killing those on the canal's bank).
Five important Ethical Principles
This idea can be used to help us make a decision in a given situation.
(a) The principle of the greater good or lesser evil- This is the premise most frequently invoked by social workers to defend their instinctive sense of what is right at the moment.
(a) The principle of Double Effects- Occasionally, the act we choose to perform entails both positive and negative repercussions. Self-defense is an excellent use of this principle.
(c) Nonmaleficence Principle- Our ethical obligation not to hurt others is separate from, and takes precedence over, our ethical obligation to benefit others. While it is our ethical obligation to take reasonable risks with our own safety in order to prevent endangering others, it is not essential for us to take equal risks to benefit others.
(d) The concept of justice requires that individuals who are equal in important aspects of the decision should be treated similarly, while those who are unequal in relevant aspects should be treated differently in proportion to their differences.
(e) Proportionality principle- This is a principle that enables one to determine the most appropriate type of response in a given situation. It maintains that if one must take action that may bring harm to another in order to protect a higher value, one must always choose the least damaging method. (Joseph and Fernandes, 2006).
Model of Ethical Decision Making
Reamer (1995) established the ethical decision-making standards because they are comprehensive and incorporate value clarification, ethical theories, and social work concepts. The steps in the decision-making process will assist students in developing a methodical approach to learning and in comprehending and analysing ethical dilemmas.Reamer (1995: 64-65) proposed the following process for ethical decision-making:
1. Identify the ethical problems at stake, particularly the conflicting social work principles and obligations.
2. Determine who will be impacted by the ethical decision, including persons, groups, and organizations.
3. Make a list of all conceivable courses of action and the individuals involved in each, as well as the potential rewards and hazards associated with each.
4. Thoroughly examine the arguments for and against each possible course of action, taking into account relevant factors such as:
Ethical theories, principles, and guidelines (for example, deontological and teleological utilitarian perspectives and the ethical guidelines that follow);
Code of ethics and legal principles;
Social work practice theory and principles; and
Personal values (including religious, cultural, and ethnic values and political ideology), particularly those related to health.
5. Consult with colleagues and appropriate specialists (e.g., agency employees, supervisors, agency administrators, attorneys, and ethicists).
6. Make a decision and document the process.
7. Evaluate, monitor, and document the decision. (Reamer, 1995)
This process entails an examination of ethics, which assists the professional in determining not only which end is more desirable, but also which means to employ: Are we doing the right thing in the right way? Numerous ethical difficulties arise as a result of these trade-offs, with a 'good' decision having a 'bad' effect. The easiest way to evaluate dilemmas is to first identify the values at odds with one another and then examine their impact on the decisions taken. While the outcome of the chosen course of action is occasionally beyond the social worker's control, a 'poor' consequence is frequently avoidable if the 'right' option is made at the 'right' moment. Therefore, it is critical for the social worker to be constantly conscious of not only his or her activities but also the concepts that guide them ( Fernandes and Dass, 2000).