Since 2016, the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington has had an ethics committee and formal process to discuss ethical dilemmas. Why does a community mental health organization need an ethics committee? Anytime and anywhere, an organization is involved in the health and well-being of others, there will always be a need for an ethics committee. Just as all hospitals now hire ethicists, so too, are we starting to see this trend within mental health. From frontline staff, to middle management, to HR, and all the way to the board of directors and the Executive Director, everyone at some point, faces an ethical dilemma. When that happens, staff should take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in dealing with these difficult situations. There have been a number of ethical dilemmas considered over the years. They range from the ethics of receiving funding from different sources, to client care, to suicides, to privacy issues, and many more.
CMHA WW works with Dr. Chris DiCarlo, Principal and Founder of Critical Thinking Solutions. DiCarlo chairs/leads our monthly Ethics Committee Meetings. At each meeting, the committee review various case studies of real and fabricated ethical dilemmas and they use an evaluative/analytical skill set for analyzing ethical dilemmas. DiCarlo also provide consultation to the CMHA WW Board of Directors, especially in regards to leadership and analyzing complex ethical dilemmas that may arise. As a professor of Philosophy of Science and Ethics, DiCarlo enhances education and builds capacity within CMHA WW to problem-solve and utilize Critical Thinking.
The committee has become extremely adept at using the ethical framework, and openly discussing the details of an ethical dilemma in the hopes of finding the best possible resolution. DiCarlo’s job as the chair and lead of the committee is to educate and to facilitate a healthy and fruitful dialogue in the analysis and potential resolution of ethical dilemmas as they arise within the agency.
There are several benefits to having an Ethics Committee. First and foremost, it allows all staff to be heard when they are faced with a troubling moral or ethical dilemma. It is important for staff to know that a committee led by an expert in the field of ethics is available to discuss whatever they might be facing. Secondly, it teaches staff about a process that can be easily applied when faced with a workplace ethical dilemma. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, the understanding of using a procedure for analyzing and attempting to resolve an ethical dilemma extends far beyond the workplace as staff will find such a framework useful in making ethical decisions in their own personal lives.