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Ethical dilemmas

Workers are in a relationship of trust with their clients and often also with the families of clients. This important relationship can be easily damaged. Workers often face situations that involve a conflict between the needs or behaviours of others and their own professional and personal values.

This is what we call an ‘ethical dilemma’.

Ethical dilemmas are often situations where there is a clash of values, at least two set of values, and you are required to decide which value is the most important.

Being faced with conflicting values usually gives us a sense of confusion and makes us feel unsure. ‘Trust your gut’ has origins in trusting of self and what you value.

As workers our own personal values can conflict with the values of our profession and/or the values of our clients.

  • Competing Values- you work with a young person who is diabetic you become aware he/she is consuming alcohol on a regular basis. You have to acknowledge your client’s right to self-determination (which is the case for not intervening) versus the value of protecting and supporting their health and well-being (the case for intervening)
  • Multiple client systems-Your client may have certain priorities and concerns, but there may be carers who view the situation differently and have conflicting concerns. Who does the worker owe the primary obligation?
  • Value Dilemma- This is where your own personal values may conflict with the action you need to take.
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