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Medical social workers are routinely confronted  with ethical dilemmas pertaining to patient autonomy, confidentiality,  refusal of services, informed consent, and assisting families in  decision making about treatment and quality of life. Boland (2006)  argues that these dilemmas stem from advances in medical technology and  cost containment strategies such as managed care. Ethical decision  making involves several steps. First, recognize the presence of an  ethical dilemma. Second, acknowledge that practice situations have  competing values, obligations, and principles. Third, understand the  rationale used by practitioners in identifying ethical dilemmas.

To prepare for this Discussion, select one  of the case studies and consider the ethical dilemmas in the case  study. Focus on the NASW Code of Ethics pertinent to the case you  selected.

Case Study 1:

A 15-year-old girl is diagnosed with cancer.  She is tired of chemotherapy and being in the hospital. She tells her  parents and her doctors that she wants to terminate treatment and live  her final days at home and spending time with her friends.

Case Study 2:

A 14-year-old boy was infected with HIV during  birth. He tells his social worker that he is going to develop an  intimate relationship with his new girlfriend. The boy’s parents are  concerned about stigma and discrimination and have chosen not to tell  the boy about his HIV status.

By Day 4

Post an explanation of the  ethical dilemma in the case you selected. Justify both sides of the  issue. Then, assume the role of the medical social worker involved in  the scenario and explain how you might respond to the ethical dilemma.  Explain two ethical responsibilities for a medical  social worker in response to this case. Make sure to support your  response by referring to the NASW Code of Ethics.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific  references to the resources and the current literature using appropriate  APA format and style.


Return to this Discussion  in a few days to read the responses to your initial posting. Note what  you have learned and/or any insights you have gained as a result of your  colleagues’ comments. 

Gehlert, S., & Browne, T. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of health social work (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Chapter 3, “Ethics and Social Work in Health Care” (pp. 41–63)

National Association of Social Workers. (2017). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from

Cole, P. L. (2012). You want me to do what? Ethical practice within interdisciplinary collaborations. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 9(1), 26–39. Retrieved from
McCormick, A. J., Stowell-Weiss, P., Carson, J., Tebo, G., Hanson, I., & Quesada, B. (2014). Continuing education in ethical decision making using case studies from medical social work. Social Work in Health Care, 53(4), 344-363.
Note: Retrieved from Walden Library databases.
McGowan, C. M. (2011). Legal aspects of end-of-life care. Critical Care Nurse, 31(5), 64–69.
Note: Retrieved from Walden Library databases.
Reamer, F. G. (2013). Social work in a digital age: Ethical and risk management challenges. Social Work, 58(2), 163–172.
Note: Retrieved from Walden Library databases.
Reamer, F. G. (2018). Ethical issues in integrated health care: Implications for social workers. Health & Social Work43(2), 118–124.
Note: Retrieved from Walden Library databases.
Weinberg, M. (2010). The social construction of social work ethics: Politicizing and broadening the lens. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 21(1), 32–44.
Note: Retrieved from Walden Library databases.
Woodcock, R. (2011). Ethical standards in the NASW code of ethics: The explicit legal model, and beyond. Families in Society, 92(1), 21–27. med
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