Ethical Dilemmas Facing Health and Social Workers – Social&Family Issues Example

Download free paperFile format: .doc, available for editing

'Ethical Dilemmas Facing Health and Social Workers' is an excellent example of a paper on social and family issues.   Health and social workers have the responsibility of taking care of the people in a variety of ways. These responsibilities are structured in a manner has to satisfy the client’ s best needs. In their duties, they have to take certain stands on treatment issues, at the same time, uphold professional boundaries as well as be aware of value conflicts. Both health and social workers usually follow a set of ethical codes set by their relevant governing bodies.

In the case of social workers, the governing body is the International Federation of Social Workers or the National Association of Social Workers. On the other hand, for health care workers they follow the ethics code of conduct set by various organizations. This organization includes the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (AMN Healthcare, 2010). It is always the desire for both health and social workers to do the right thing, however, they lack clarity on how to achieve this since the healthcare industry is dynamic.

During their work situations are not always similar, and ethical dilemmas usually arise despite the existence of set moral codes from relevant organizations or hospitals. An ethical dilemma would be approached in this paper as the “ conflict between two or more moral principles” . The following parts will tackle some of the common ethical dilemmas both social and health workers face. Right to Self-determination The ultimate decision always lies with the client or patient and social and health workers ought to abide by this principle.

This means that the client reserves the right to make independent decisions and solutions to problems affecting him despite them being contrary to what health or a social worker believes to be right. Hence, the duty of a health or social worker is to provide counsel and advice to the client but should not prejudice his client’ s decisions through her opinions and personal biases. This dilemma arises as a result of the health or social worker to do what is right for the client. It also comes as a result of respect to the client’ s decision to take individual stands on their though. Confidentiality Respect for the privacy of a client is also a critical dilemma facing both professional and novice health and social workers.

This is more common especially in clients who tend to have suicidal tendencies bringing about a clash between respect of the client’ s decisions and his right to confidentiality. Health and social workers are always required to maintain the privacy or confidentiality of the information they get from their clients. They always should not disclose any information they acquire without their client’ s consent.

However, in extreme cases such as suicide attempts or tendencies to hurt others the social or health worker is allowed to disclose this information hence breaking confidentiality for the protection of the public and his client. Differing Morals and Values Every social or health worker has his or her set of values and morals guiding him or her every day. It is always the expectation that these social and health workers should respect the client’ s differences and keep their feelings to themselves. However, in other situations, their morals and values conflict with those held by their clients.

This situation creates an ethical dilemma and may impede judgment or performing of a certain task required of them. For example, a health worker that has certain strong religious beliefs or moral values regarding abortion would be confronted with the ethical dilemma of whether or not to assist a pregnant teen who wants to procure an abortion (Jared, 2012). Dual Relationships One of the codes of ethics for social and health workers is not to engage in romantic or friendly relations with their clients (which is known as dual relationships).

After the termination of contact with the client, the relationship should be entirely over since what was only required was worked related relationship only. However, there are situations that tend to put the health and social workers in an ethical dilemma. For example, they might run into their clients in maybe a grocery store, a park or movie theater. It is unwise for the social or health worker to ignore the client simply, as well as she or he may not know the extent to which to take their interaction.   This is one critical ethical dilemma social and health workers face each day that is hard to avoid and resolve; it requires discipline, courtesy, good judgment, and professionalism.

There are also ethical and legal considerations social and health workers face in their interaction with colleagues and other professionals. These moral codes involve respecting fellow members, working harmoniously with other professions in the solving of ethical disputes. In addition, they are required to avoid any sexual involvements with students or supervisees, seek advice and guidance from fellow colleagues so as to serve the best interest of their clients.

They also ought to report any misconduct carried out by other partners. All these cases pose an ethical challenge to these workers during their duties. Dilemmas in Administration Some ethical dilemmas arise without direct contact with the respective clients. Individuals experience such difficulties in the various administrative roles. An example of one problem they face is the allocation of resources and funds to various programs of the agency or hospitals. The choice of which program to support more than the other is a challenging ethical task that this administrator usually undergoes each day.

These managers need to make appropriate ethical decisions regarding the operation of their business. There should be a balance between the need to make profits and the ability to provide quality patient care as well as providing charity care (AMN Healthcare, 2010). Professional working environment The ethical considerations that are followed by the social and health workers in their practice settings are sometimes vague and open to interpretation. It involves many activities and things that revolve around their practice.

These can be dual relationships, being up to date with technology advancements or changes in their fields of practice by regularly updating their educational background. Also, it includes upholding ethical billing practices by ensuring that billing is done for only the services provided. For example, some workers sometimes have been found to be faced with the moral dilemma in their practice through various activities such as billing under false circumstances or using false names when billing. Furthermore, social workers may interview children without permission from the children’ s parents (Jared, 2012). Both social and health workers have the ethical responsibility of maintaining their integrity in their practice as professionals.

These involve being competent, desisting from dishonest or fraudulent activities, and not mixing one's private life with one’ s professional role. These works need to ensure that their professional responsibilities are not affected by personal issues like substance abuse and psychological impairments. In addition, health and social workers also have a responsibility for the whole society. They ought to ensure that their activities and duties are for the right to public welfare and the promotion of social justice.

Thus, they need to avoid activities that foster discrimination and inequality. They should be at the forefront of good political and social actions that are meant to ensure social well-being as well as reduce discrimination cases. For example, promotional companies such as pharmaceuticals, equipment’ s and medical devices manufacturers usually target health workers (nurses and doctors) in their promotions. These include offering incentives such as notepads, pens, free meals, and other logo items. These gifts tend to drive substantially the willingness of health and social workers to reciprocate in some way.

It sometimes proves difficult for these workers to turn down any compensations or giveaways from various promotional agencies (AMN Healthcare, 2010).   These create an ethical dilemma in their duties as sometimes their decision-making process might be influenced by these giveaways. It creates a situation whereby the workers struggle with the need to provide equal treatment for all versus providing VIP treatment to influential persons and other donors. The provision of the VIP treatment to some select few individuals can lead to longer physician consultations or longer waiting times or may force the administrator to come down to ensure that these VIP persons experience no problems.

It is probably crucial to ensure the privacy of celebrities, trustees, and other financial donors. Despite this clear policy need to be in place so as to give the best way forward in such situations.  


AMN Healthcare, I., 2010. Five Ethical Challenges in Healthcare. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 1 May 2015].

Jared, S., 2012. Ethics and Social Work in Health Care. In: S. Gehlert & T. Browne, eds. Handbook of Health Social Work. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 41-63.

Download free paperFile format: .doc, available for editing
Contact Us