Professional ethical dilemma faced and how I handled it and how I might handle it differently after this course

As a social worker, I take on different responsibilities aimed at ensuring that clients’ interests are served to the maximum. I have to ensure that I balance the values of the clients with the values and principles of the organisation I am working for; that is I have to abide by the propositions of the code of ethics. Also, I have my personal needs that I have to fulfil. Thus, I face various ethical dilemmas in the course of my profession in deciding what the best, if not good, thing to do at a particular time. The following explains an ethical dilemma I faced, how I resolved it and how I might resolve it in the light of the knowledge and skills leant in this course.

I once worked with a colleague to whom I was very close to and his family. The colleague committed suicide after battling with cocaine addiction and depression for a long time. His parents requested me to present his eulogy because I had been part of the counselling team that collectively with the parents sustained the rehabilitation of the deceased (Mr. Abbott). The parent explained to me that they appreciated my efforts as a member of the counselling team and a close friend to Abbot and thus considered me integral to the family. They also explained to me how hard it was to conclude the funeral ceremony of the deceased the following day.

I got emotionally touched by the poignant request from Abbott’s parents as well as the sentiments they expressed to me. The sentiments made me feel close to the family as they claimed and identify their need of emotional support in completing the funeral ceremony of their son, thus I accepted their request to present Abbott’s eulogy. However, I came to realise that my decision to present the eulogy was accompanied with an ethical dilemma. I realised that in the process I was likely to break one or more of Abbott’s right to privacy and confidentiality, my personal reputation as a friend, the reputation of our organisation, the expectations of funeral attendees and my relationship with Abbott’s parents. There was no single way I could present the eulogy without falling short of one of the above identified conditions.

Presenting the eulogy elaborating the episode s of Abbott’s life would mean denting his right for respect of dignity, privacy and confidentiality because not all people within the funeral congregation have to be informed of the episodes. While some attendees may sympathise with the occurrences, others will negatively frame it and despise the life lived by Abbott. On the other hand, not providing the exact occurrences falls short of the attendees’ expectations of the truth of demise of the deceased. More so, there are some attendees that will be affected or influenced negatively by the exact events of Abbott’s life. No way had I had to satisfy these two conditions.

Similarly, presenting the eulogy could undermine my reputation as well as the reputation of my organisation.  The attendees may view me as “spoilt” friend simply because “birds of same fathers flock together” and a failure that could not help his friend from drug abuse and depression. Likewise, our employer organisation might be perceived as a haven of drug abusers providing no support services to such users. Furthermore, the attendees may consider me as a person who cannot keep a secret thereby affecting my future career. The refusal to consider the request from Abbott’s parents is likely to diminish their trust in me and worsen their emotional suffering as they explained their emotional vulnerability as they made their request.

I attended the funeral and presented the eulogy. I gave out my details (name, relationship with the diseased and the employer organisation). However, I did not present exact events of the life of the deceased for the fear of flouting confidentiality and privacy to the life of the deceased. But with the knowledge and skills from this course, I would handle the same incidence differently; I will adopt the deontological perspective (Velasquez et al, 2007, p. 3) and utilitarian approach to guide my actions during presentation and assess the effects of such actions. First, I will not disclose my details and relationship to the deceased in order to protect the reputation of employer organisation and the future of my career. I will communicate the exact events of the life of Abbott to conform to the society expectation of always telling the truth, and yes, the dead has the rights but they are not more important than those of the living ones.

References

Velasquez, M. Et al (2007). A framework for Moral Decision Making. SME Financial Systems, pp. 1-3.

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