If people enter rehab then they will have expectations of being treated in a certain manner. In other words they will expect certain ethical rights to be respected. These rights include:
* To give informed consent for anything that will occur during rehab
* They will want their autonomy respected
* They will not want to be harmed in any way – this is the ethical principle of nonmaleficence
* Confidentiality in regards to any information they have provided
* The expectation that therapists will be working in the interest of the client – in ethics this is referred to as beneficence
* The individual will expect to be treated with dignity throughout their stay
* They will expect to be treated justly
These ethical principles are not just desirable but also protected by law and by professional codes of conduct.
Ethics can be defined as a set of principles that govern conduct. It is a branch of philosophy where the focus is on what is right and what is wrong. Some aspects of philosophy can appear very abstract, but ethics is something that impacts every human. It focuses on how people should be expected to be treated and what rights they should have. Ethical theory has had an impact on the modern world.
Informed Consent, Autonomy, and Rehab
People have an ethical right to be involved in decisions that are going to affect them. This is supported by the principle of autonomy. The right of people to live their life based on their own motives and reasoning. If an individual undergoes any type of treatment without having given their informed consent it will mean that their autonomy has not been respected. The only possible justification for this is when the individual has been declared incompetent to make rational choices.
In order for consent to be informed the individual needs to have a good understanding of what they are agreeing to. For instance, just because they have signed a form for a medical procedure does not necessarily mean that they have given informed consent. At the very least they will need to know the benefits and risks associated with the treatment. Not everyone has the capacity to give informed consent; for example, young children and people who are suffering from impaired thinking.
In some instances people will be introduced to addiction treatment against their will. There may be good justification for doing this if the individual is a danger to themselves or other people. Many of these individuals will consent to the treatment after their minds have a chance to clear. Evidence suggests that informed consent is crucial so that people get the most from their time in rehab. People will only be willing to participate if they feel it is in their interests to do so; rehab is unlikely to be beneficial without such participation.
Beneficence, justice, and nonmaleficence are three more important ethical considerations in rehab. Those individuals who are in early recovery from addiction will tend to be particularly vulnerable. This means that they are open to all types of exploitation including sexual abuse and bullying. They rely on the professionals working in the treatment facility to help them adjust to their new life. This involves putting a certain degree of faith in the therapists. In return for such trust it is expected that these experts will be always working in the best interest of the client and that they do nothing that might cause harm. It is also an expectation that each client will be treated fairly.
People have a right to their privacy. If personal information is made available for public consumption it can lead to a great deal of embarrassment. It could also be the cause of legal or personal problems for the individual. Those individuals who enter rehab will expect that their confidentiality is respected. The rehab will have a legal as well as ethical obligation to do so. Thankfully confidentiality is something that most rehabs take very seriously.
Probably the biggest worry that people have in regards to confidentiality in rehab is involvement in group therapy. This is because members of these groups will often divulge their deepest secrets. There is the fear that such personal information may be leaked outside the group by another client. While this is an understandable concern, it is remarkably rare that members of a therapy group will break confidentiality. This is because the therapists will emphasize the importance of keeping information within the group. Most individuals will also be concerned about their own confidentiality so they will not break anyone else’s. Clients can further protect their confidentially by not using their real name.
People have the right to be treated respectfully no matter who they are. Even if they have made poor decisions in the past this should not mean that they can now be dealt with shabbily. Treating people with dignity can include:
* Not making jokes at their expense or engaging in any inappropriate humor
* Respecting their right to privacy
* Calling by the name that they wish to be called by.
* Respecting personal body space. People from different cultures will have their own idea about what is a comfortable amount of body space. Standing too close or too far away from people may make them feel uncomfortable (this is also culturally-dependent).
* Avoiding all racist, homophobic, discriminatory or any other type of degrading language
* Dealing with them politely
* Avoiding conversational topics that make them feel uncomfortable.
The relationship between a rehab professional and a client needs to be based on mutual trust. If the client does not have trust it means that they are unlikely to benefit from this interaction. A key element to developing trust is honesty. If the client has any reason to suspect that the therapist is being dishonest it will be damaging. It is therefore crucial that there is no attempt at deception in this type of therapeutic relationship.
It is also vital that the client is willing to be honest and open. The addict will have only been able to maintain their abuse by lying to themselves and other people. Their only hope in recovery is to lead a new life where honesty is at the forefront. It can be difficult for them to be open after so many years of hiding from the truth. It involves taking a leap of faith. It is only likely to happen if they have complete trust in the person who is trying to help them.
A quality addiction rehab will be dedicated to providing a service that respects the ethical rights of the client. This is not only because of their moral and legal obligations but also because it increases the effectiveness of such treatment. If the individual is not a willing participant in their recovery from addiction they will not be likely to benefit from their time in rehab.