Role Morality

Role Morality

What is Role Morality?

Role morality refers to the notion that sometimes people fail to follow their own moral-ethical standards when they see themselves as playing a particular role that excuses them from following those set standards. For example, suppose you are working in a reputed company, and you view yourself as a loyal employee. When you are playing the role of a loyal employee you might tend to do some unethical tasks that may benefit the company but you may never do that unethical tasks otherwise for self-benefits. According to the researcher, Keith Levitt, a person tends to show different behaviour or make different decisions without even paying much attention to it, based on what role he/she is playing in a particular situation. It is important to investigate the concept of role-morality as it can make people show unethical behaviour without even feeling guilty as people tend to justify their wrong behaviour by describing the way their behaviour is right in accordance with the role they are playing. In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of role-morality using different case studies and examples.

A Study on Role Morality

In a study, a group of people were asked to describe the morality of a drug-selling company that caused the number of deaths while the competitor of that company did not cause any deaths. The responses of the people showed that 97% of people supported that the company should stop selling the drug as it is unethical. While, the same people when categorised into 57 groups, and were told to assume themselves as playing the role of the directors of that company, it was found that all the 57 groups agrees to sell the drug. They supported their argument through the perspective of the requirement of the monetary benefits in business. This shows when the people played the role of the company’s director they took the unethical decision that might be in the favour of the company’s growth but risks the lives of others. Ethical behaviour however demands that people should follow the same moral-ethical standards in every situation regardless of the different roles that they play in personal or professional life.

Role Morality Example

Case Studies For Role Morality

Following are the certain case studies of the role of morality that you can discuss with others and try to find the ethical decisions that align with the principles of ethical behaviour.

Case Study 1: Clinical Social Worker’s Dilemma

A 25-years-old man dealing with depression and anxiety went to a clinical social worker for treatment. During the fourth therapy session, the client reveals to the social worker that he is gay. He reveals that he has been in a relationship with a man and is thinking about marriage. The client wants to inform his parents about his relationship, but he is afraid that his parents would be very angry and won’t approve of his relationship. He is suffering from anxiety due to this fear. The social worker belongs to a religion that considers homosexuality a sin, and the leaders of this religion strongly oppose same-sex marriages. According to the clinical worker, the treatment was going good without any biases before the client revealed the truth. After the social worker knew about the client’s homosexuality, the social worker got concerned that he won’t be able to give the treatment fairly as he is concerned about his religious beliefs now. The social worker decides to suggest the client look for another therapist as his religious beliefs against homosexuality may interfere with the treatment.

Clinical Social Worker's Dilemma

A health care professional has to face ethical dilemmas when their religious beliefs or moral ethics interfere with their duty to provide unbiased treatment to their clients. Like the case study that we discussed above, a similar case of Kim Davis, who was working as a clerk in Rowan Country, Kentucky also faced a similar ethical dilemma. Davis was jailed because he defied the orders of the federal court to provide marriage licenses to gay couples. Davis refused to obey the court orders as it was against her religious beliefs. During his tenure at the United States District Court, Judge David L. Bunning opposed Devis and gave the following statement,

If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”

Ryan Anderson, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation gave the following statement in the support of Davis.

Ms Davis felt she had to follow her conscience… That, after all, is what religious freedom and religious accommodations are all about: creating the space for citizens to fulfil their duties, as they understand them, to God regardless of what the rest of us think.”

According to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, the duty of the social workers is to,

act to prevent and eliminate… discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief, religion, or mental or physical disability,”

Discussion Questions

One can discuss this case study by considering the following questions.

  • Is the role-morality evident or not in the Kim Devis case? if yes/no, how? Is role morality should be permitted in this case or not? If yes/no then Why?
  • Is the role-morality evident or not in the social worker’s case? if yes/no, how? Is role morality should be permitted in this case or not? If yes/no then Why?
  • Do you think that clinical professionals should be given the opportunity to choose the patients they want to treat based on their beliefs or values? Why or why not?
  • Is it ethical if the mental health service providers show biases in the treatment based on the sexual orientation of the client?
  • What if in the given case, another therapist is not available to replace the current therapist due to less staff or other reasons. What should be done in that case?
  • Is it right to ask about the sexual orientation of the patient before assigning any particular clinical social worker to them? If the client does not reveal their real sexual orientation before the treatment, is it risky to change the therapist later during the treatment? Is it harmful to the client if he/she is getting the treatment from a clinician who may show some biases toward the client based on his/her sexual orientation?

Case Study 2: Patient’s Confidentiality Vs Doctor’s Duty

According to medical ethics, doctors should keep the details of the patients confidential. An HIV positive patient told his doctors that he had unprotected sex with various partners, and he never told his partners that he is an HIV positive patient. He told the doctor that if he discloses his condition then no one in future would like to be his partner. The doctor explains to the patient that he is risking the lives of his partners by doing so, and the patient assures the doctor that he will not do the same in future.

Medical Code of Conduct

Discussion Questions

This case study can be discussed by raising the following questions. We can begin by considering the actions of the patient first. The patient is not a professional, hence he is not obliged to follow the professional code of conduct or ethics, however, his wrongful action is a point of concern as it put the lives of his partners at risk. Is the patient’s action wrong? If it’s wrong, What exactly is morally wrong with his actions? Now, considering the Doctor’s role. The doctor is a professional, hence, he has to abide by the medical code of conduct. If the patient has told the identity of his partners to the doctor, Should the doctor take any steps for the partners? If yes, what actions should the doctor take? What if the patient does not want the doctor to disclose his confidential information? Has the patient lost his right to keep his information confidential because of his wrongful actions? If the doctor informs the partners even after the objection of the patient, should the patient criticise the doctor widely to inform the other patients that his information was not kept confidential by the doctor? What should the doctor do to resolve this issue?

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