Ethical Fitness

by Linda Verst

As I pen the third in our inaugural year of prevention-focused ethics columns, my tomatoes are beginning to fade on the vine after weeks of daily eating, giving them away and flash freezing my bounty.  I barely recall those early June days when I daily peered for growth, tomato blossoms or tiny fruit.  Our work is often that way, isn’t it?  Either we’re cooling our heels waiting for the next shoe to drop or carrying paperwork wherever we go, trying to play catch up.

 Our last column had to do with that new preventionist whose job was preventing prenatal alcohol exposure. She needed a second job, and bartending appealed. Thanks to Jessica Hestand and Julie Stevens, who possibly twisted a few arms, I’ve not had to cool my heels waiting for responses.  I appreciate all who wrote and took this dilemma seriously!  Note: none of you argued with the possibility of the person needing to supplement her income, or of bartending as financially feasible in filling that gap.  We all recognize the believability of this issue.

Here are just a few of your thoughtful responses:

From Aleza Berube, Prevention Educator in Austin TX, “… this is a conflict of interest because the grant is to prevent alcohol use by pregnant women.  Since it is not illegal to serve pregnant women, you might end up serving a pregnant woman …” 

From Dechantria D. Wallace, ICPS, Academic Advisor in Little Rock AR, “I would have to say that this is definitely a conflict of interest… As prevention specialists we all uphold certain ethical standards. How can you serve alcohol to individuals at one job and promote prevention of alcohol use to individuals at another?  In fact, this is no worse than accepting money from a local alcohol distributor to promote prevention activities…”

Finally, from Katrina Cavaness, ICPS, Monticello Schools, AR, “(She) should look for extra work elsewhere as this scenario is a clear-cut conflict of interest.  What would (she) do if she were to accept the bartending job and one of her pregnant clients came into the establishment for a drink?  How would the pregnant client feel seeing her counselor serving drinks?  This situation would undermine the prevention professional’s ability to effectively assist her clients to abstain from alcohol.”

All readers will be happy to know that the actual preventionist in this case study chose on her own not to take the bartending job, but to find other employment, even though it might be less helpful to her financial situation. 

Thanks to all who shared views, and here are some useful internet resources for information on Fetal Alcohol issues:

Want to see your name in this international newsletter?  Here’s a new dilemma for your consideration: 

“Bob is working in intervention in a rural area.  One of his responsibilities is to meet weekly with a small group of at-risk teens at the county high school.  These students have been caught smoking or drinking.  Judge Jones is a local judge who speaks to Bob’s group.  The Judge speaks to the teens about underage drinking and driving laws, explaining how much trouble they can incur.  Judge Jones is stopped by police in a town close to Bob’s school.  He is arrested for drunk driving.  What should Bob do about having the Judge continue to speak to his intervention group?”

Please share your thoughts in the comments.   You’re also welcome to send sample case studies (suitably disguised) for future discussion to with the subject line of “Ethical Fitness.”


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