Code of Ethics and Ethical Dilemmas in Medical Social Work Essay

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Code of Ethics and Ethical Dilemmas in Medical Social Work Essay




The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics guides the work of all social workers regardless of the setting. It is imperative that medical social workers evaluate and analyze how the standards set forth in the Code of Ethics apply specifically to health care settings and medical situations.

Although students of social work have not yet satisfied the criteria to earn the title of “social worker,” they are bound by the same ethical requirements as titled social workers according to the NASW Code of Ethics. Social workers regularly face ethical issues of varying magnitude, and social work students may face ethical issues as well in their current jobs or field placements.

Medical social workers are routinely confronted with ethical dilemmas pertaining to patient autonomy, confidentiality, refusal of services, informed consent, and assisting families in decision making about treatment and quality of life. Boland (2006) argues that these dilemmas stem from advances in medical technology and cost containment strategies such as managed care. Ethical decision making involves several steps. First, recognize the presence of an ethical dilemma. Second, acknowledge that practice situations have competing values, obligations, and principles. Third, understand the rationale used by practitioners in identifying ethical dilemmas.

To prepare for this Discussion: Review the Week 3 resources and select one case from the two scenarios below and consider the ethical dilemmas in the case study. Focus on how both the NASW Code of Ethics and potentially relevant state/federal law applies to the case you selected. Respond to the Discussion prompts below in your post.

Case Study #1:

A 15-year-old girl is diagnosed with cancer. She is tired of chemotherapy and being in the hospital. She tells her parents and her doctors that she wants to terminate treatment and live her final days at home spending time with her family and friends.

Case Study #2:

A patient is admitted to the ICU following a stroke and is no longer able to speak or make health care decisions. The patient has been in a committed relationship with their significant other for 15 years, but they are not legally married. The doctor is asking about withdrawing life support, and you are tasked with determining who can make that decision. The significant other tells you they know the patient’s wishes, which would be different than what their adult child would do. They also report the patient has not spoken to that child in over 20 years. When you look in the patient’s record, you see they have never filed their Advance Directives.

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