By Karen Lehman, President/CEO
There’s nothing like a pandemic to bring up ethical issues! How are you managing ethical decisions in this season? If you made a list of all of the issues that have developed just with the COVID-19 pandemic, it would likely more than fill this page. Thankfully, we won’t ask you to draft a list! But as we consider ethics and ethical decision-making in the MHS May eConnections newsletter, there may be no better time than now to bring your awareness to this topic.
Ethics and the setting of ethical policies and decision-making processes has always been a part of the role of MHS. Many, if not all, of the policies regarding end of life care, palliative care and other ethical dilemmas MHS members face on a regular basis have been argued and documented since the very beginning of our members’ histories.
But did any of you expect to be living in a time when your organizations, serving the most vulnerable of this world’s population, would be confronted so directly with the impact of a deadly virus? A time when communities have to be locked down regardless of the life and death issues at play. Physically separating families, husbands and wives, and children. Putting your direct caregivers at risk. And then there’s the issue of all that free money many of you have been given access to.
How do you confront an ethical decision? Even if you don’t think it’s an ethical decision, you’re often faced with a challenge or a difficult choice that needs to be made. No matter how big or small these dilemmas are, do you have the right tools to appropriately process and respond in the best interest of the organization and all your stakeholders?
There are many ethical decision-making process tools that can help you tackle an issue. And sometimes you can take all the right steps, follow the decision-making matrix, and still at the end not be totally comfortable with your decision. Or you find yourself in a defensive posture after announcing the decision and it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Recently, I was given a letter that was two pages of defense for a decision that was made. Paragraph after paragraph described how this decision was affirmed, even though it went against some long-held faith values. If it takes two pages of defense, maybe you should reconsider the decision!
If your decision or action would hit the front page of the newspaper, how would that make you feel? When everyone around you forcefully agrees with the decision, does it make you wonder just a bit if you’ve thought through all the pros and cons? What would a resident or individual’s family member say? How would this impact the most vulnerable of our staff and those we serve? Ethical decision-making is not rocket science! It does not have to be daunting. Sometimes it’s just a simple gut check – when I really listen to what my heart is saying, is this the right decision? And if all that fails, then use an ethical decision-making matrix and ask for help!