The ethical issues and dilemmas confronting psychologists are becoming increasingly more numerous and complex. Managed care has forced practitioners to consider and reconsider issues of confidentiality and what it means to offer competent treatment. Others are faced with questions of when and whether to break confidentiality in light of clients' dangerous behavior. Researchers need to consider the meaning of true informed consent and how to study socially significant behavior, such as child abuse, while protecting participants' privacy. University faculty members struggle with their responsibilities to enhance students' intellectual and personal development while at the same time maintaining reasonable standards that protect the public from inept and unqualified psychologists.
Furthermore, the culture in which these problems are occurring is also changing. In the United States, the populations that psychologists treat, study, and teach are increasingly diverse. This diversity is necessitating the rethinking of assumptions about the meaning of concepts like consent, confidentiality, boundary issues, and justice in different cultural contexts. In addition, diversity raises questions about competence in the provision and availability of psychological services as well as in approaches to research and instruction.
The increase in the complexity of ethical issues psychologists face and the cultural contexts in which they are embedded is taking place in a society that is also increasingly litigious. Ethical issues and decisions have become difficult to separate from legal ones and, when they can, psychologists often have to weigh both the legal and ethical implications of their actions.
The assumption of this book is that in the current climate, formal codes of ethics including the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct ( American Psychological Association [APA] 1992), and even ethics texts that try to cover the full range of ethical issues in psychology, cannot address all of the concerns and conflicts that psychologists face. New ethical questions will arise more quickly than ethics codes or texts can track them. Furthermore, ethical questions are often ambiguous, requiring a great deal of thought about how ethics codes or the advice in ethics texts apply.
Consequently, one purpose of the book is to provide a foundation for thinking well about ethical issues in psychology. The first three chapters construct a conceptual framework for understanding and thinking about ethics. A decision making model integrates the ethics code ( APA, 1992) and legal concerns with the foundational principles of autonomy, be-