Application: Ethical Considerations and Legal Issue

Most professional organizations have a set of ethical principles or guidelines that guide the conduct of a crisis worker. From the essential concept of “do no harm” to more involved practices such as obtaining informed consent, the ethical considerations that you may take for granted in normal practice often are amplified in disasters, crises, or traumas.

Crisis workers must also be aware of legal issues that may arise in the event of a disaster, crisis, or trauma. For example, when responding to crises or traumas involving minors, crisis workers are bound by mandated reporting laws. Every state has such laws, requiring mental health professionals and school personnel (among others) to report crises and traumas, such as child abuse, to state departments of children, youth, and families.

In this Application, you will explain ethical considerations and legal issues related to responding to a disaster, crisis, or trauma described in one of two case studies

Case Study #1

Julie, an eighth grader at South Middle School, is referred to school psychologist Dr. Lee following an angry outburst in her Math class. Julie is overweight and socially isolated by many of the girls in her grade. She reports that she has been a victim of bullying since fifth grade. Dr Lee determines that Julie’s anger is a manifestation of a significant underlying depression resulting from chronic exposure to bullying. Julie discloses that she met with a counselor 18 months earlier after expressing a wish to commit suicide. Dr. Lee asks if Julie has had suicidal thoughts recently. Julie starts to cry and nods her head in the affirmative. Dr. Lee asks Julie to sign a contract that indicates that she will not hurt herself, but Julie refuses. She tells Dr. Lee that she wants to kill herself, but not before she kills one or two of the girls who have been bullying her.