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Guide Essay

2094 words - 9 pages

A Practitioner's Guide to Ethical Decision Making
Holly Forester-Miller, Ph.D. Thomas Davis, Ph.D. Copyright © 1996, American Counseling Association. A free publication of the American Counseling Association promoting ethical counseling practice in service to the public. -- Printed and bound copies may be purchased in quantity for a nominal fee from the Online Resource Catalog or by calling the ACA Distribution Center at 800.422.2648. ACA grants reproduction rights to libraries, researchers and teachers who wish to copy all or part of the contents of this document for scholarly purposes provided that no fee for the use or possession of such copies is charged to the ultimate consumer of the ...view middle of the document...

By exploring the dilemma in regards to these principles one may come to a better understanding of the conflicting issues. 1. Autonomy is the principle that addresses the concept of independence. The essence of this principle is allowing an individual the freedom of choice and action. It addresses the responsibility of the counselor to encourage clients, when appropriate, to make their own decisions and to act on their own values. There are two important considerations in encouraging clients to be autonomous. First, helping the client to understand how their decisions and their values may or may not be received within the context of the society in which they live, and how they may impinge on the rights of others. The second consideration is related to the client's ability to make sound and rational decisions. Persons not capable of making competent choices, such as children, and some individuals with mental handicaps, should not be allowed to act on decisions that could harm themselves or others.

2. Nonmaleficence is the concept of not causing harm to others. Often explained as "above all do no harm", this principle is considered by some to be the most critical of all the principles, even though theoretically they are all of equal weight (Kitchener, 1984; Rosenbaum, 1982; Stadler, 1986). This principle reflects both the idea of not inflicting intentional harm, and not engaging in actions that risk harming others (Forester-Miller & Rubenstein, 1992). 3. Beneficence reflects the counselor's responsibility to contribute to the welfare of the client. Simply stated it means to do good, to be proactive and also to prevent harm when possible (Forester-Miller & Rubenstein, 1992). 4. Justice does not mean treating all individuals the same. Kitchener (1984) points out that the formal meaning of justice is "treating equals equally and unequals unequally but in proportion to their relevant differences" (p.49). If an individual is to be treated differently, the counselor needs to be able to offer a rationale that explains the necessity and appropriateness of treating this individual differently. 5. Fidelity involves the notions of loyalty, faithfulness, and honoring commitments. Clients must be able to trust the counselor and have faith in the therapeutic relationship if growth is to occur. Therefore, the counselor must take care not to threaten the therapeutic relationship nor to leave obligations unfulfilled. When exploring an ethical dilemma, you need to examine the situation and see how each of the above principles may relate to that particular case. At times this alone will clarify the issues enough that the means for resolving the dilemma will become obvious to you. In more complicated cases it is helpful to be able to work through the steps of an ethical decision making model, and to assess which of these moral principles may be in conflict. Ethical Decision Making Model We have incorporated the work of Van Hoose and Paradise (1979), Kitchener...

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