Because human services work often involves direct client interaction, there are times when the values of the worker differ from those of their clients. In these circumstances, ethical dilemmas tend to arise. Review the case examples and current ethical conflicts presented in Chapter 5 of your textbook. Choose (1) case study and (1) ethical conflict to discuss, and present the dilemmas involved in each case. As a human services professional, how would you handle these situations? How would you balance your values as a professional with a client’s needs?
Andrea was a 9 year old girl who had been diagnosed as having cystic fibrosis at the age of 13 months. Since then she had been hospitalized twelve times, eight times during the last year.
When admitted for the last time, she was already receiving an experimental antibiotic, which was being administered in an attempt to control a resistant pneumonia superimposed on severely damaged lungs, a result of her underlying disease. She was at that time a severely ill, emaciated child with moderately labored breathing. She seemed to have no interest in her environment and refused to communicate with anyone but her mother.
The parents indicated that in the event of a cardiac or respiratory arrest, they did not want their child to be resuscitated, and the appropriate medical order was written. The child was not involved in these conversations or subsequent decision making.
As this child’s condition continued to decline, the parents asked the doctor how much longer she would live and how she would die. At one point the father said: “Watching your own child die is worse than dying yourself.” This comment led to a discussion of active euthanasia utilizing intravenous potassium chloride or a similar drug. The physicians pointed out that no matter how hopeless a situation or how much suffering the patient and family were enduring, the law prohibits the active taking of a patient’s life. They refused to consider this option. The following day, Andrea’s heart began to fail. Her condition became progressively worse, and she died approximately 48 hours later. During those last two days, her parents were in great despair because of her steadily deteriorating condition. They felt helpless and impotent to alleviate their daughter’s distress. Medical treatment was continued to the end, and no measures were taken to hasten Andrea’s death.
Approximately two months after her death, the mother asked if she would still have given permission for active euthanasia if she had been offered that option. She replied, “Yes.”
Mandell, B.R. & Schram, B. (2012). An introduction to human services: Policy and practice (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. ISBN: 9780205838851
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