Foundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in Psychology

By Karen Strohm Kitchener | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2
Thinking Well About Doing Good

As noted earlier, psychologists sometimes face ethical problems for which no choice seems completely satisfactory. These ethical dilemmas often pit good but contradictory values against each other. Take the following case, for example.

Case 2-1 : A 52-year-old retarded adult who has been institutionalized most of his life has recently been tested by a new psychologist in the institution. The psychologist determines that the retardation is not as severe as previously thought and on examining the case file believes that the client has suffered from incompetent assessment as well as neglect. The psychologist recommends moving him to a community care home where he may become more independent and perhaps, develop some kind of a normal life. This will save the state about $20,000 and relieve overcrowding on the ward. In a preplacement interview, the client tells the psychologist that the institution is his home and he begs not to leave it. As the date of his transfer nears, he begins to exhibit symptoms of a severe depression.1

Should the psychologist insist on the client's placement in a community care home on the basis that a less restrictive environment may allow the client to live a more normal life and will benefit the institution? Or should the client's wishes be respected and a recommendation made that he be allowed to stay in the institution considering his past history? This kind of problem pulls reasonable psychologists with good moral values in different directions.

This case is based on one written by John Keller that was initially published in "Intuition, Critical Evaluation and Ethical Principles: The Foundation for Ethical Decisions in Counseling Psychology", by K. S. Kitchener, 1984, The Counseling Psychologist, 12, 43-55.


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