Characteristics of Ethical Dilemmas:
One knows when they have a significant ethical conflict when there is a presence of a) significant values
conflict among differing interests, b) when there is more then one possible solution, and c) significant
consequences on “stakeholders” in the situation
An ethical dilemma exists when there is a conflict between what is perceived as right or wrong
Usually involves weighing personal values, beliefs and sense of right and wrong, rather than clear cut evidence
or scientific fact
Often involves making a decision for another that they would not necessarily want you to make or would not
make for themselves (going against the wishes of another – putting another in an uncomfortable position)
Usually no right answer but rather a better answer or the lesser of two evils
Often involves making a choice you would rather not make
Not experienced as an intellectual puzzle to be sorted out - more something that sits in your stomach like a knot
How Do Ethical Dilemmas Arise?
The ethical problem may simply be unforeseen or unpredictable. This may be due to inexperience or ignorance
of ethical principles but it may simply not be predictable.
May be inadequately anticipated – may know of potential for issues but did not anticipate how large the issues
might be and therefore did not take steps to prevent dilemma.
The ethical problem is foreseen, but there is no way to avoid it.
Anticipate an ethical problem but what to do might not be clear.
Available codes or policies may not be specific enough to answer questions or provide guidance.
When duty to the individual conflicts with laws, policies or expectations.
Employee willfully or maliciously engages in behaviour they know violates ethical principles.
Examples of Ethical Dilemma:
Breaching participants right to confidentiality and privacy.
Knowingly exceeding what the organization is realistically capable of doing or sustaining.
Ignoring individuals right to self-direction.
Participant engaging in substance abuse which has obvious consequences.
Observing interactions between employees and the participant or their family members that challenge your own
beliefs and morals.
Receiving information you wish you did not have.
Attacking or blaming others.
Harassment towards a fellow employee
Contravention of the organizations policies
Controlling information in efforts to limit the opportunities of a rival employee
Misrepresentation of credentials
Guidelines for Addressing Ethical Dilemmas:
1. If the dilemma involves imminent compromise to the safety or well being of either a participant or
employee notify your supervisor immediately. Complete the “Ethical Concern Identification Form”.
2. If the dilemma does not involve imminent compromise to the safety or well being of an individual, engage in
personal reflection in order to identify your personal boundaries or to get in touch with your own emotional
responses and how these impact on your decision making.
3. Know and access your resources (literature, policy, peer, supervisor)
4. Review the organizations Code of Ethics for guidance.
5. Using the 6-step Decision Making Model along with the “Ethics Filters” :
-define the problem,
-identify alternative solutions,
-evaluate the identified alternative,
-make a decision,
-implement the decision,
-evaluate the decision.
If the issue is unresolved, complete “Ethical Dilemma Identification Form” and submit along with
relevant documents to the attention of the Chair of the Ethics Committee