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Harrish Nair S00144769 SWTP620 Assignment 2 Ethics Essay The ability to make choices is one of the key abilities

s that make humans, superior than his animal counterparts. Human life provides an opportunity of endless choices. These could be as trivial as; What should I have for lunch today? on one end of the spectrum all the way to Who should I live with for the rest of my life? on the other end. Every decision made has its own unique consequence. Ever consequence gives the decision maker an opportunity to look back and reflect on this decision. By reflecting on this decision he can gain wisdom from the experience to make better informed decisions for the future. Is this right or wrong? This question has haunted our minds as a collective group of people from the earliest records of ideas put forth by Greek philosophers such as Plato. Many words have been used to describe our need to find a common understanding on this matter. Morals, values, ethics, and laws, what do these words mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary; Morals relate to principals of right or wrong behavior; Values are desirable qualities; Ethics are the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group, and laws are rules of conduct that are enforced by a controlling authority. Looking beyond the superficial differences, the common theme to these words is in an underlying intention to encourage certain behaviors and discourage other behaviors. This prompts us to ask, why we need to influence the beliefs of individuals in a particular direction. One possible answer to that question would be that the lack of such guidelines would lead to chaos in our communities. If everyone was allowed to do as they please, they may end up harming themselves or others intentionally or unintentionally. Allowing individuals to harm themselves or others is something that most would agree is inherently contradictory to the human conscience. Even more so, without guidelines, we may be less well off than we could actually be had we had some rules. The need for guidelines is essential when we live in the dual world of dark versus the light. Guidelines acknowledge the shadow side of the human race and punishments exists to remind us to make better choices. However as some of us may have experienced in our personal lives, decision making may not always be straightforward. Sometimes a particular decision may seem inherently right but may not end of with positive consequences for everyone involved. In other cases a particular decision may seem inherently wrong but may work out for the greater good of everyone involved. These conflicts are known as ethical dilemmas. Ethical dilemmas make decision making harder for the individual. In these instances having mutually agreed guidelines could make decision making easier for the individual.

Harrish Nair S00144769 In the context of modern life, individuals in professional positions now face greater pressures to behave in an ethical manner as they are legally bound to act in a way that fulfills their duty of care to their clients. Social workers in particular are often put in these types of challenging situations where they have to make decisions for and on behalf of their clients. This essay will examine the how of ethical theories can inform ethical decision making in social work practice. When discussing ethical theories, there is a common acceptance of 2 major schools of thought. The deontological view is that the right action is one which is inherently right, and focuses on the decision makers capacity to fulfills his duty and obligations to the parties involved. Immanuel Kant a German philosopher was a huge proponent of this type of thinking. He believed in acting according to the strict adherence to principles, regardless of the consequences. Ethical decisions taken with this perspective also had to be universally applicable to other kinds of similar situations. The influence of such moral philosophy is prevalent in the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), Code of Ethics which prioritizes values such as respect for persons and client self determination. (Banks, 2011) The underlying assumption in this form of thought is that everyone makes decisions in a rational manner. However human nature is not always predictable and can be irrational at times. Other limitations of deontological beliefs include its inability to provide solutions for situations which involve a conflict of principles. For example in real life social workers may face situations in which there can be a conflict of their personal morals with their employers standards or with legal expectations. Since there is no commonly accepted list of principles ranked according their priority, the practitioner could face an ethical dilemma. (Banks, 2011) The other major school of thought takes an opposite stance to determining right action. Consequentialism suggests that the right action is that which provides the decision maker with the best end result. Contrary to the deontological belief, emphasis now lies in the consequences of a particular action. Utilitarianism, a concept developed from such thinking, suggests that the best course of action is that which provides the greatest good for the greatest numbers.(Banks, 2011) As an example, let us imagine a situation of a kidnapper who has been caught by the authorities, and has locked a group of children at a secret location. From a purely utilitarian perspective we would decide that it would be justifiable to use force against the kidnapper because this would result in the freedom of the group of children. On the other hand from a pure deontological perspective we would not be able to use force against the kidnapper as the use of force on a human being is an inherently harmful act.

Harrish Nair S00144769 Critics of utilitarianism point out that it is often difficult to measure the consequences of a particular action as it would be based on the practitioners imaginary projection of the future. As a result, the act of weighing consequences can be influenced by the practitioners values and personal experiences. Furthermore when the consequence of a particular action involves a few parties, the concept of greatest good for the greatest number can create conflicts. This is because a particular action may be in the best interest of one and at the same time be harmful to another. As a result, the practitioner may feel compelled to take sides when deciding whose interests to protect. As one could imagine, following a puritan attitude of using one particular ethical theory versus another may not be the right thing to do. In response to this some authors have described a need to combine both schools of thought, that is taking the decision which is both inherently right and maximizes goodness. (Gray, 2010).In real life situations, Osmo and Landau (2006) research with Israeli social workers found that practitioners based their decisions on deontological or utilitarian beliefs depending on the context of the ethical dilemma. In general though, they have found that social workers are deontological in principle but more utilitarian in practice. Osmo and Landau (2006) also sense that more recently there is a greater appreciation of other ethical theories outside the domain of the deontological versus utilitarian debate. One such theory is virtue ethics. Virtues ethics is said to have been derived from Aristotelian ideas. Virtue ethics attempts to shift away from the idea that we perform a certain action because of a sense of duty to the client or agency. Instead, right action is performed out of an intrinsic knowing within a human being. It focuses on the intention of the actor rather than the action or its consequence. It maintains that the concept of acting in a dutiful manner is not as pure as acting out of ones true desire. In essence, virtue ethics seeks not to ask what good social work is, rather, what is a good social worker. (Gray & Webb 2010) Around the world many social work organizations have a Code of Ethics for professional practitioners. The Australian equivalent of this document states that one of its purposes is to give social workers a frame of reference, to guide them in their practice. (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2002).However like many similar codes in other countries, it fails to provide sufficient guidance for a practitioner facing an ethical dilemma. (Hartsell, 2006).In responses to this lack, several authors have created ethical- decision making models to address this need. One such popular model in the social work context is the General Decision-Making Model from Dolgoff, Loewenberg, Harrington (2009), reproduced below.

Harrish Nair S00144769


Step 1 - Identify the problem, persons, organizations involved in the problem; Step 2 - Determine who should be involved in the decision making; Step 3 - Identify the relevant values of those identified in step 1 including caseworker and client Step 4 - Identify the goals and objectives which may resolve or reduce the problem; Step 5 - Identify alternative interventions to reach the goals; and assess the effectiveness of each of these alternative strategies Step 6 - Select and Implement the most appropriate strategy Step 7 Monitor the implementation, paying attention to unanticipated consequences and identify additional opportunities

Dolgoff et al. (2009) add that in the use of such models one may encounter a conflict of principles. In such situations they have suggested the use of the Ethical Principal Screen as follows, ranked in order of priority. Whilst they acknowledge that other authors criticize prioritizing principles, they belief that it may be useful in social work practice.
Principle of the protection of life Principle of equality and inequality Principle of autonomy and freedom Principle of least harm Principle of quality of life Principle of privacy and confidentiality Principle of truthfulness and full disclosure

It should be emphasized that users have to exercise discretion in the use of ethical decision making models and avoid following them in a religious manner. (Gray & Webb, 2010). However they can serve as a valuable guide if used appropriately according to the context. Banks as cited in Gray and Webb (2010) recommends that more work needs to be done to make models capable of taking into consideration emotional and culturally sensitive matters. This is an important consideration, given the domination of Western views in research and practice. Often cultural beliefs and moral values are deeply ingrained in the minds of practitioners and colors their perception of the world. As a result if social workers have not developed the capacity to be self aware of these subtle differences in belief systems, there may be a risk of harm to their clients. (Corey, Corey & Callanan, 2011)

Harrish Nair S00144769

Ethical dilemmas are often complex situations for both practitioners and their clients. For inexperienced practitioners, such situations may be overwhelming personally and professionally. It is important for practitioners to note that there may never be one right or wrong way when deciding on solutions. In order to reduce the difficulty of making ethical decision, social workers have to improve their knowledge of ethical theories and notice how these theories influences their practice. Self reflection is also necessary on the part of the social worker to identify personal prejudices, religious convictions which may result in stereotyping and intolerance. (Gray and Webb,2010). In additional to consulting peers for advice, social workers can also use ethical decision making models to clarify their thought processes. I will end with a quote from Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Potter Stewart, Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do .