Ethical Decision Making


1) Identify and Define the Problem
a. Gather information
b. Ethical, Legal, or Moral issue (or combination)
c. What laws or policies are relevant?

2) Apply Code of Ethics

3) Consider Moral (Ethical) Principles
a. Which principles (autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, justice, and fidelity) apply to the situation?
b. Rank order priority to the situation

4) Consultation and Review of the Literature

5) Generate Potential Courses of Action
a. Identify desired outcomes
b. Brainstorm
c. Consider all options – be creative

6) Consider Consequences of All Options
a. Evaluate each option
b. Assess the potential consequences for all parties involved
c. Eliminate options that clearly do not give desired results
d. Look for “best fit”

7) Select Course of Action
a. Review selected course of action to determine if it presents any new ethical considerations
b. How does course of action fit with ranking of moral principles?
c. Apply four tests…
i. Test of Justice: Assess your own sense of fairness by determining whether you would treat others the same in this situation.
ii. Test of Publicity: Ask yourself whether you would want your behavior reported in the press.
iii. Test of Universality: Assess whether you could recommend the same course of action to another counselor in the same situation.
iv. Test of Moral Traces: Was expediency, politics, or self-interest involved in the decision?
8) Implement the Course of Action and Follow-Up
a. Strengthen ego and gather moral courage
b. Follow-up and reassess
c. Document


Tune into your feelings
Involve your client
Take your time!!