Monday 9 April 2007

Member Care and Ethics

During the months of April and May, we will be looking at the important area of ethics in member care. One of the main sources that we will use is from the July 2006 article in EMQ, "Upgrading Member Care."
Ethics involves a mindset (a way of thinking through issues) in light of recognized guidelines which promote responsible care and good practice. Such guidelines deal with areas like confidentiality, skill competencies, continuing growth, accountability, sensitivity to human diversity, and organizational responsibility for staff care.
"Member care is a broad field with a wide range of practitioners. As this field continues to grow, it is important to offer guidelines to further clarify and shape good practice. Any guidelines must carefully consider the fact of the field’s international diversity, and blend together the best interests of both service receivers and service providers. They also need to be applicable to member care workers (MCWs) with different types of training and experience."
Is this relevant for me? For sure! Here are three examples.
Example One. Competence.
An experienced consultant makes recommendations to a humanitarian service organization based in Asia. The consultant is addressing the care of their emergency staff working in a mass disaster area, rampant with cholera and malaria. The consultant is vaguely familiar with that cultural context and the organization itself. To what extent does the consultant need to inform the agency about limitations in his/her background? When is it OK to “stretch” beyond one’s areas of training and experience? What if no one else is readily available to offer advice? So is the consultant acting competently?

Example Two. Confidentiality.
A compassionate leader informally exchanges a few emails with a man in their organization who has marital struggles. The man tells the leader that he and his wife have frequent fights that can be overheard by African neighbors. Later, the leader prays with his own wife about the other couple's struggles. Is it OK for one’s spouse to know such things? Is the disclosure of “significant problems” protected information? Would asking the leader to not share be “secretive”? So what type of confidentiality is appropriate?

Example Three. Responsibility.
A reputable sending organization shortens a family's field preparation from three months to one month. The reason is so that the husband, a medical doctor, can cover a crucial and vacant position in a refugee hospital in the Middle East. To what extent does making such “adjustments” simply reflect the realities of mission/aid work? What if “lives”, or a large funding grant, are at stake? So to what extent is the organization acting responsibly towards the family and the refugee patients?
Reflection and Discussion
  • Recall a situation in member care where ethical practice was not adequately understood.
  • How can a person further develop a "mindset" for ethical practice?
  • What is the difference between ethical guidelines for good practice and personal morality?

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