As you may recall, our Ethical Fitness column in September referred to a situation in which Bob, a prevention specialist, meets weekly with a group of at-risk teens in a rural county high school. These students had been caught smoking or drinking, and Bob has Judge Jones speak to them about underage drinking and driving laws, explaining the trouble they can incur. The Judge is stopped by police in a nearby town and arrested for drunken driving. Our dilemma: What to do about having the Judge continue to speak with this intervention-oriented group?
Serendipitously, I was able to combine a group of eight workshop participants who needed six hours of prevention ethics by year’s end with a need to resolve Bob’s ethical dilemma. One captive audience plus one applicable case study discussion equals a vibrant multiple exchange of ideas!
The group identified the following ethical principles as germane to the Judge’s involvement:
- Ethical Obligation to Community and Society: adoption of a personal and professional stance that promotes well-being of all;
- Integrity: we should not be associated…with services or products in a way that is in any way misleading or incorrect; and
- Competence: recognize one’s limits & boundaries and use due care to plan and adequately supervise activities for which one is responsible).
Next, various members of the group brought up the following concerns: Is the Judge willing to be honest about his arrest? What’s his message going to be? Will the students know about his arrest? This was a no-brainer – everyone in a rural community knows what’s up. Some decided that the Judge’s message could be even more meaningful in the future, but we need to check his intentions. Thanks to Cheryl, Virginia, David, Kate, Angela, Sarah, Craig and Tonia for their whole-hearted participation in our discussion.
This case study reminded me of an incident I once faced when students at one of our high schools wanted a particular boy to speak during prom week. A judge had ordered that this teen’s probation include speaking to others about the dangers of alcohol abuse. He had been charged for under-aged purchase of alcohol (he looked older and was not carded) that led to the death of another teen. The other high school student passed out in the rear seat of a minivan and died, aspirating his own vomit.
A school psychologist and I decided we should meet with the young man and see what his message would be. We were faced with the unenviable task of helping him to understand just what he had done that was so wrong. His immaturity was such that he had not fully faced the fact that his actions had led to the death of another. This taught me never to assume a speaker is bringing a hoped for or even logical message, and to always check out people who will interact with my audience, no matter how highly recommended they are.
Here’s an interesting dilemma for you to gnaw on when you catch your breath after the holidays:
You are a prevention professional working at a Regional Mental Health Center. Rachel, a co-worker, has been hospitalized recently. A group is in the break room. Someone asks how Rachel is doing, and no one has any news about her condition. A clinician, who works part-time at your agency and part-time at the local hospital, gets on the hospital’s internet account, types in his code and downloads Rachel’s medical records. He proceeds to share this information with those of you in the break room. What do you do?
Leave a comment here with your answer or email firstname.lastname@example.org with Ethical Fitness in the subject line. Peace, joy, and a blessed new year to all!