Ethical action in challenging times

Authored by: Kim Strom-Gottfried

The Routledge Handbook of Social Work Ethics and Values

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  May  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138343931
eBook ISBN: 9780429438813
Adobe ISBN:


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Contemporary social work practice is rife with ethical dilemmas: “two or more courses of action that are in conflict (and will potentially have both positive and negative consequences), each of which can be defended as viable and appropriate” (Weinberg, 2009, p. 144). Consider the following examples. Should a social worker:

Advocate for the patient’s best interest or comply with the medical team’s decision to send him home?

Accept a case with a limited number of approved treatment sessions even when it is clear those will be insufficient to deal with long-standing trauma issues?

Discharge a resident for breaking a house rule, despite the fact that he was making progress on his recovery goals?

Follow agency guidelines that systematically penalize applicants who are undocumented immigrants or “bite the hand that feeds you” by challenging organizational norms?

Respect privacy laws or work in environments such as cubicles and overcrowded emergency departments where it is impossible to keep sensitive conversations confidential?

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