Ethics In Psychology Research Paper Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Psychology, Treatment, Nursing, Patient, Ethics, Family, Beyond, Sexual Abuse

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/09/13

What are the potential ethical issues with this case?

This is a case that happened between Dr. Jones and Mr. Albertson wherein the former was the psychological professional and wherein the latter is the patient undergoing psychological treatment. To summarize what happened in the case, Mr. Albertson suffered a major concussion when he was undergoing a set of psychological treatment sessions under the case of Dr. Jones.
His neurologic and mental condition deteriorated to the point of being unable to take care of himself as a result of the incident. At present, he is fully dependent and requires maximal assist in performing activities of daily living. His comprehension is also poor. He also does not understand what is going on around him. One of the possible ethical issues that may arise in this case is the lack of patient’s consent to continue further psychological treatment, in this case, under the case of Dr. Jones.
In the field of psychology, as in the case of other fields of medicine, patients are required to sign an informed consent form—a form that serves as evidence that they voluntarily seek treatment from the medical professional whose name appears on the form . In Mr. Albertson’s case, however, he appears to be unable to neither comprehend the contents nor sign the informed consent form.
Despite the fact that Dr. Jones knows how important it is that Mr. Albertson undergo psychological and other forms of treatment such as the ones he mentioned in the case, as a result of the concussion, it may be unethical to proceed with any forms of treatment or medical procedure knowing that the patient does not have the mental and cognitive ability to protect himself and his rights. Of course, this issue would be solved as soon as a family member or relative becomes present. Another potential ethical issue that may arise in this case would be financial issues that come as a result of the discrepancies in Mr. Albertson’s workers’ union membership and the expenses for the types of services that they will cover.

What are the competing ethical principles?

According to the formal article released by the APA about the ethical principles and code of conduct of psychologists, “psychologists seek to promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching and practice of psychology; in these activities psychologists do not steal, cheat, or engage in fraud, subterfuge, or intentional misrepresentations of fact” . This excerpt was under the ethical principle of integrity.
In another part of the same document under the ethical principle of fidelity and responsibility, it has been stated that “psychologists should uphold professional standards of conduct, clarify their professional roles and obligations, accept appropriate responsibility for their behavior and seek to manage conflicts of interests that could lead to exploitation or harm” . Basically, these two, fidelity and responsibility, and integrity are showing signs of conflict in Dr. Jones’ case.
She knows that he needs to treat Mr. Albertson because of his current condition. However, he also knows that there might be some negative things that other people in the community of psychologists might be able to say about him by treating a patient without consenting him or a family member first considering that he is unable to formally give his consent to undergo psychological treatments. Some skeptics may think that he took advantage of Mr. Albertson’s case so he can have a continuous stream of income from a client who do not really need his services who at the same time cannot knowingly refuse treatments.
Between the two, the author of this paper thinks that the real solution is to follow the recommendations of Mr. Albertson’s lawyer and look for the nearest family member so that Dr. Jones can use the fact that Mr. Albertson’s rights as a patient (i.e. rights to refuse treatment, among others), have not been violated even when the fact that he is currently unable to give consent himself is considered.
Is Dr. Jones acting beyond the limits of her competency? Explain.
As far as the details regarding the case are concerned, no information about whether the scheduled treatment sessions between Dr. Jones and Mr. Albertson have been continued after the accident leading to the latter’s suffering from a concussion. However, if indeed Dr. Jones still proceeded with the scheduled treatment sessions even after the fact that Mr. Albertson already had a concussion, it still cannot be considered that she acted beyond the limits of her competency because firstly, the set of treatment sessions were scheduled at a time when Mr. Albertson was all well without any mental illness aside from the depression that he was complaining about—which means that he was able to give his consent for the initial treatments and all the succeeding scheduled treatments.
If, however, Dr. Jones insisted on treating the secondary psychological complications of the concussion that Mr. Albertson is suffering from, then that would show that she already acted beyond the limits of her competency because firstly, she was not consulted by Mr. Albertson to treat the secondary complications of his concussion and secondly, Mr. Albertson cannot possibly seek any form of medical consult at the moment because of his current cognitive state.
As long as Dr. Jones can prove either through her words or actions that she is merely acting based on what she and Mr. Albertson agreed upon in their contract as psychologist and patient in their first meetings, then that cannot be considered as an act beyond the limits of her competency. The recommendation for Dr. Jones, therefore, is to protect his integrity as a psychologist and restrain her compassion for the patient even though she knows how the patient needs it; and wait until a family member whom she can talk to about the patient’s options appears.
Is Dr. Jones practicing outside the scope of her license? Explain.
The answer to this question is a no because there were evidences in the case that shows that Dr. Jones knows the boundaries of her expertise and that she has no plans to cross that boundary no matter how urgently the situation requires. A strong evidence of this would be the fact that she already started processing Mr. Albertson’s referral for neuropsychological testing, among other forms of additional medical services that she thinks the patient might need as a result of his sudden involvement in the accident leading to the concussion and loss of cognitive function.
Surely, Dr. Jones would not bother processing Mr. Albertson’s referral notes if she had plans of doing the neuropsychological testing (a field which we assume is beyond her scope of expertise or license) herself. Additionally, practicing beyond one’s scope of license is generally considered illegal and unethical .
What are the possible implications that may occur as a result of Dr. Jones engaging in multiple roles in Mr. Albertson’s care?
Dr. Jones knows that her patient still have relatives and family members who live outside the city who may also be contacted so that they would take the roles that Dr. Jones appear ready to take for the sake of her patient. However, it would appear unethical to do so because firstly, it is not her responsibility, and secondly, she does not have the proper authorization to do so, as a result of Mr. Albertson’s condition. So far, there are still no mistakes yet and no conflicts of interests exist yet.

What Suggestions would you make to Dr. Jones?

The primary suggestion to Dr. Jones is for her to coordinate with Mr. Albertson’s lawyer and follow the guidelines provided by the lawyer as long as no family members are present to protect Mr. Albertson’s rights and make the necessary decisions for him. It would also be important to restrain her actions to only those that she and Mr. Albertson have talked about prior to the incident that led to his cognitive disablement. That way, Dr. Jones would be able to protect herself and her patient’s rights in case things go wrong.


American Psychological Association. (2014). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct Including 2010 Amendments. APA.
Holloway, J. (2003). More Protections for Patients and Psychologists under HIPAA. American Psychological Association, 22.
Leach, M., & Oakland, T. (2010). Displaying Ethical Behaviors by Psychologists when Standards are Unclear. Ethics and Behavior, 197-206.

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