In the clinical settings we often encounter sensitive issues such as informed consent, truth telling, confidentiality, end of life care and patients right. As medical social workers, we have received referrals of patients seeking to be discharged against medical advice, patients refusing blood transfusion, patients refusing amputation of malignant limbs, relations refusing post mortem of coroner cases. Religion and socio-cultural factors cannot be over looked because they are significant in the clinical ethics.
Clinical ethics is a practical discipline that provides a structured approach to assist physicians, nurses, physiotherapist, medical social workers and other clinicians in identifying, analysing and resolving ethical issues in clinical practice. Hence, the paper explored the ethical dilemma in the clinical settings, the perspective of the professional friend of the patients, the counsellor, the clarifier, the educator, the comforter, the advocate, the silent achiever.
The following operational definition of terms will be used:
1. Ethics: this is a set of values, principles and beliefs that guides the behaviour of a specified group engineers, doctors, lawyers, journalist, medical social workers. They can be termed as ‘standard of conduct’
2. Dilemma: according to Groiler (1971) dilemma means a situation requiring a choice between equally objectionable alternatives.
3. Clinical setting: A health facility where medical attention is given to patients. Medical Social Workers are guided by the ethical priniciples of social work
4. Medical Social Worker: A trained health professional who assists patients(Clients) with their psychosocial problems
5. Clinical ethics: The branch of bio-ethics that addresses ethical conflicts that arise in daily clinical practice in health care institutions through the establishment of hospital ethics committee and ethics consultation services.
It must be noted that, Medical Social Workers must be represented in any Hospital Ethics Committee of International Standard. We are clinical ethicist. The Greek physician’s Hippocratic oath is the most famous ethical work. Hippocrates made the following statement on medical ethics. As to diseases, make a habit 2 things: To help and not to harm
As medical social workers in various clinical settings we have been involved in various ethical dilemmas. But for the purpose of this paper, we will explore the ethical responsibilities of social workers according to the International Federation of Social Workers.
Ethical Responsibilities of Social Workers
Ethics evolved from the Greek words, ‘ethikos’, ethos, which means, ‘Customs, habbit’. Ethics therefore, refers to well-founded standard of rights and wrong that prescribe what human ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness or specific virtues.
- It is also conceived as a social religions or civil code of behaviour considered correct, especially that of a particular group, professional individuals.
- Ethics is a moral principle that governs a persons behaviour or the conducting of an activity
- It is the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles
- A set of moral principles, especially ones relating or affirming a specified group, field or term of conduct.
- Ethics is a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behaviour helps or harms sentiment creation- Richard & Linda, (2014)
- Ethics are standards of conduct (or social norms) that prescribe behaviour Fayomiwo, (2013)
Purpose of Ethics in Social Work
1. It identifies core values in which social work mission is built or based
2. It summarises the broad ethical principles that reflect the professional core values and establishes a set of ethical standards that should guide social work practice.
3. It is designed to help social workers to identify relevant considerations when professional obligations conflict or ethical constraints arises
4. It provides ethical standards to which the general public can hold the social work profession accountable
5. It socializes the practitioners who are new to the field of social work’s mission, values, ethical principles and ethical standard.
6. The code articulates the standards that the social work profession itself can use to access whether social workers have engaged in unethical conduct or behaviour.