Weighing the Ethical Dilemma Case Study

Pages: 4 (1654 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Psychology

Ethical Dilemma

Weighing the Ethical Dilemma

Sherry presents with many issues that may present ethical dilemmas throughout the treatment process. In particular, her use of illegal substances as well as the distribution of these drugs to others is cause for concern for the welfare of her child. Although Sherry reports that she is not using substances in front of her child one needs to consider Sherry's ability to care for the child while under the influence of substances. Further, her distribution of drugs may place the child at-risk if this is occurring from the family home.

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When determining whether or not the information Sherry has shared in the psychotherapy process should be reported to the authorities one must consider the ethical standards and principles of the discipline. According to the American Psychological Association's (APA) Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct (2002) standard 4.05a a psychologist may disclose confidential information with the appropriate consent of the organizational client, the individual client/patient, or another legally authorized person on behalf of the client/patient unless prohibited by law. Standard 4.05b permits psychologists to disclose confidential information without consent of the individual only when mandated by law and when it is for a valid reason such as to provide services, obtain consultation, protect the client or another from harm, and to obtain payment which allows for a limited disclosure (APA, 2002). Yet many states have laws that only allow for the release of information without consent in situations that are deemed emergent if the information to be released is necessary to the course of treatment.

TOPIC: Case Study on Weighing the Ethical Dilemma Assignment

In the case of Sherry the role of informed consent may help in this decision making process as ethical standard 3.10 describes the obligation of psychologists to obtain informed consent to psychotherapy, and ethical standard 10.01a more specifically states that when obtaining this informed consent, psychologists should do so as early in the therapeutic relationship as possible and this information should include limits to confidentiality (Pomerantz, 2002). Pomerantz (2002) explores the concept of informed consent as an ongoing process throughout the life of treatment and that as a client's issues change or focuses change it is important to have continued dialogue regarding the nature and expectations of the treatment process. This can include frequency of sessions and activities for treatment engagement.

A psychologist can utilize an ethical decision making model when presented with situations that pose ethical dilemmas. In this case, utilizing the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists, the psychologist would be allowed to utilize their personal conscience into the decision making process (Canadian Psychological Association, 2000). In particular if the psychologist makes every reasonable attempt to apply the code and the solution to the problem relies on their personal conscience then that psychologist would have met his/her obligation under the code (Canadian Psychological Association, 2000). The clinician needs to take into consideration that the information given is only from the prospective of the mother and therefore may not accurately reflect the risk to the child. As a helping professional it is best to air on the side of caution when it comes to safety risks and not make choices that knowingly jeopardize the safety of others.

Another important factor described in the Canadian decision making model is for the psychologist to take into consideration is who will be impacted should the situation be reported to the authorities and will it pose and ethically related issues (Canadian Psychological Association, 2000). In this case the potential implications are for the child as well as the stability of the family. This would need to be taken into consideration by the psychologist prior to reporting these events. Due to the inclusion of personal ethics in all decision making, these steps also ask the practitioner to evaluate any personal biases that may influence the decision-making process (Canadian Psychological Association, 2000). Is there a personal reason that the psychologist may be quicker to try to protect the child maybe a history of abuse or a previous experience. Another step that resonated for me is that during the decision making process, one must be willing to accept responsibility for the outcome of the decision that they have made (Canadian Psychological Association, 2000). It is important that no matter what choice we make as professionals that we not only act in the most ethical manner possible but that we also are willing to stand behind the choices that we have made and any resulting consequences of such choices.

According to Pipes, Holstein, and Aguirre (2005), persons acting in a professional capacity take on the burden of being ethically responsible to their professions code of ethics and the behaviors prescribed within. These codes may include rules governing appropriate behavior. When trying to distinguish between professional and personal ethics things become a little trickier. Personal ethics has been referred to as morality and express the common expectations of a person in a particular society (Pipes, Holstein & Aguirre, 2005).

The state of New Jersey, New Jersey General statutes have sections that apply to the exceptions of confidentiality. This includes a mandated reporter statute, New Jersey 9:6-8.10, which requires that all persons immediately report suspected abuse or neglect when there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect. These reports should be made to the Division of Youth and Family Services that maintains a 24-hour hotline for abuse and neglect related issues. Reports should include all identifying information regarding the child and caretakers. New Jersey statute 9:6-8.14 addresses the failure to report such incidents to the proper authorities. This statute attests that any person who knowingly fails to report an act of childhood is subject to prosecution as a disorderly person.

While there are some states that regard parental substance abuse as a reportable offense, New Jersey does not address this issue in the child welfare statutes. However, in this case, the mother's continued substance abuse can result in the neglect of the child pursuant to statute 9:6-8.21 which identifies neglect as the inability of the parent to provide the child with proper supervision or guardianship. One should consider, when determining what is ethical in this case, whether or not Sherry is adequately able to care for her child while under the influence of substances. Further, even though she claims that she only uses substances when the baby is asleep whether or not the child could be adequately cared for if it were to wake up continues to be unseen at this time. The child is a newborn whose needs are far greater than that of an older child.

There have been a few influential court rulings in New Jersey that can also help frame this ethical dilemma. In the case of NJ Division of Youth and Family Services v. P.P. And S.P., 852 A.2d 1093 (N.J. 2004), the complexity of the issue of parental substance abuse is readily identified. In this case, the parental rights of terminated due to their inability to adequately provide for the children due to longstanding substance abuse. Despite the agreement that the termination of rights was in the best interest of the children at the time, the appellate court still remanded the matter pending further evaluation and ceased adoption measures.

Confidentiality of records is also called into question on this case under statute 9:6-8.10a which allows for the release of protected records and reports to a child protective or law enforcement agency that is investigating a report of child abuse or neglect. It further extends to entities determining child protective custody or those authorized to care, treat, evaluate or assess the child particularly when the information is needed to assist in the evaluation. Any legal entities such as the Office of Administrative Law, attorneys, a grand jury, state legislature, etc. are also covered under this statute.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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