Resolving Ethical Dilemmas
In addressing ethical dilemmas, it is important for social workers to consider the various ethical principles and standards outlined in the NASW Code of Ethics (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2020). One useful approach is to use an ethical decision-making framework, such as the one outlined in Figure 1.1 on page 439 of Kirst-Ashman and Hull (2020). This framework involves a six-step process of gathering information, defining the ethical dilemma, identifying relevant ethical principles and values, weighing the options and consequences, consulting with colleagues and other resources, and making a decision and taking action (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2020). For example, in addressing the ethical dilemma of whether it is acceptable for social workers to look at a client’s activities on social media or seek information through an internet search, it is important to consider the ethical principles of confidentiality, informed consent, and respect for autonomy (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2020). The value of confidentiality is relevant in this case because social workers have a duty to protect the privacy of their clients and the information they share. On the other hand, the value of informed consent is relevant because social workers should only collect and use client information with the client’s knowledge and permission. Similarly, the value of respect for autonomy is relevant because social workers should respect their clients’ right to make decisions about their own lives, including what information they share with others. In weighing these competing ethical principles and values, social workers should carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of looking at a client’s social media activity or seeking information through an internet search, and consult with colleagues and other resources as needed before making a decision (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2020). Cont…
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