NUMBER 850 • 19 OCTOBER • ETHICAL DECISION MAKING
Evaluating our decisions is a key component of ethical decision making and acting. Such an evaluation must concern itself not only with the outcome, but must also include an appraisal of the process used to arrive at the decision. What was considered in coming to the decision? How were the different interests and values weighted and ethically adjudicated? Using the example of responding to a crying infant to illustrate how she might evaluate her “ethic of caring,” Noddings (1984) writes, “... the test of my caring is not wholly in how things turn out; the primary test lies in an examination of what I considered, how fully I received the other, and whether the free pursuit of his projects is partly a result of the completion of my caring in him” (p. 81).
By maximizing an individual’s safety, we may be forced to restrict personal freedom and autonomy on occasion, and this is especially true when working with individuals at risk for suicide. Striking the right balance requires mindful moral action and professional diligence, a process that can be very draining and emotionally demanding. Evaluating the “rightness and goodness” of our decisions must go beyond a consideration of whether someone was kept alive or not. Ruddick (1996) offers a poignant commentary in this regard:
“... there are many ways and capacities for knowing that go into the ability of a community, or a hospital, to keep a person alive. Many treatments can be learned, tested impersonally, and methodically delivered. But finally I look for ways of knowing and counting knowledge that would judge these treatments in the light of the pleasures they offer, the love they make possible, the care they provide, and the justice they observe” (p.267).
Finally, by recognizing the importance of the process and the outcome of ethical deliberation when evaluating and justifying their actions, child and youth practitioners will be better equipped to “articulate good reasons in public” (Benhabib, 1996) which is an important leadership quality and an integral element of effective and ethical practice.
White, J. (2004). Earning their trust and keeping them safe: Exploring ethical tensions in the practice of youth suicide prevention. Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, Vol. 17 No.3 pp.13-21