Ethics in General Psychology

Ethicsin General Psychology

Ethicsin General Psychology

Inthe psychological sphere, ethics play a very vital position in allactivities that psychologists conduct including the professional,scientific, and educational roles. In the private or hospitalenvironment, psychologists are faced with various ethical concernsthat arise during their operations. The American PsychologicalAssociation (APA) Ethical Principles of psychologists and Code ofConduct outline some general principles and ethical standards thatgovern and guide all psychologists towards an ethical decision making(American Psychological Association, 2010). Sometimes, ethicalprinciples generate a conflict that might give rise to ethicalissues. This paper aims at discussing informed consent as an ethicalissue in psychology, as well as to give moral response that addressesthe issue as it arises.


Psychologistsperform a variety of roles as therapists, consultants, and asresearchers. In all these operations they require informed consent asa key principle, which means that clients should fully understand theservices offered to them, expected benefits, as well as risksinvolved (Lincoln and Holmes, 2011). The client has the right to sayno to the offered services or bring to an end his or herparticipation after being provided with precise information. Reynolds(2006) suggests that in activities that might be accompanied byvarious distinguishable risks, consent should be presented in form ofwriting. Such activities include therapy and research. In a casewhere a client or participant might not be in a position to give hisor her consent, a guardian or a surrogate is given permission toconsent for him or her.

Giventhat informed consent not only protect human rights, but also ensuresvalidity of research experiments, it is important for psychologiststo make effective moral judgments when making ethical decisionsconcerning consent. For example, psychologists might be faced with adecision about the amount of information to reveal to a client.According to Escobedo,Guerrero,Lujan,Ramirez,andSerrano(2007), in such a scenario, it is morally acceptable for them to giveinformation that they themselves would wish to know if they were in asimilar circumstance like their client or reveal to relatives andclose friends what they themselves would want to be communicated.

MoralTheories responding to the issue of Informed consent

Thereare various moral theories that respond to the issue of informedconsent. Two of these theories include utilitarianism and categoricalimperative. The theory of utilitarianism suggests that an action isright on the condition that it leads to good consequences and it iswrong if it does lead to favorable consequences (Reynolds, 2006).Therefore, a psychologist who is in a dilemma of deciding on how muchconsent to give to a client might make an ethical decision based onthe utilitarianism theory, which means he or she will make a decisionbased on whether it will lead to less harm and more benefits (good)or not (wrong). Lincoln et al., (2011) suggest that categoricalimperative indicates that people should act in a manner that isrational and that which would be rational for each and everyindividual. This means that, based on categorical imperative, it ismorally acceptable for a psychologist to make an ethical decisionbased on whether the decision is rationally suitable for everyindividual suffering from a similar condition.

Relationshipbetween Informed consent and General Principles of Psychology

Principlescontained in the American Psychological Association EthicalPrinciples of Psychologists and code of Conduct relate to the issueof informed consent in several ways. In the principle of beneficenceand nonmaleficence, a psychologist aims at benefiting those theyinteract with and act in a way that lessens or keep people away fromharm (APA, 2010), which means a psychologist might obtain informedconsent from his or her client to avoid harm and increase benefits.The principle of respect for people’s rights and dignity alsorelates to the ethical issue of informed consent. Neilson,Chaimowitz, and Zuckerberg (2015) suggest that whenobtaining informed consent from a client, it is important for aclient to honor and respect the autonomy of a client to give consentor not.

MoralDecision making Model

Thereare various moral decision making models that can be used astemplates for discussion. In an issue regarding how much informationto give to the client in order to obtain consent, the moral modelwould be effective to make an ethical decision. The moral model usesthe acronym MORAL to describe a five step decision making process(Kuz, 2006). The first step involves massage the issue, the secondone is to outline options, third one is dilemma resolution, fourthinvolves action, and the fifth one involves looking back andevaluating the whole process (Kuz, 2006). In this case, massaging thedilemma would include the psychologist summarizing the problems ofthe client and current care plan. Then, the psychologist gives asynopsis of the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Theoptions in this case could be to give the client all the informationpertaining his or her condition, give information to client’s closefriends or relatives, and omit to give information if there would beno distress or harm involved. The issue would then be resolved bygiving the client more autonomy to make decision about his or herhealthcare as well as consulting with the committee concerned withethics regarding the issue. The action implementation stage wouldentail presenting to the client the right and precise informationthat would not cause distress or harm, but result to his or herwellbeing. After presenting the information to the client, the clienthas the autonomy to give consent or terminate the services rendered.In the last step, assessment of the whole process is very importantas it directs on where an ethical decision was made right or wrongand therefore, if such an issue ever occurs again, amendments wouldbe made.

TheRationale behind Informed consent Ethical Issue

Clientsof psychological services have a right to be actively involved andinformed about their healthcare. The right to make good decisionsabout one’s treatment is fundamental to his or her autonomy anddignity. Therefore, psychologists should ensure that their ethicaldecision making process is morally acceptable and makes theappropriate care for clients a necessity. By using a systematic modelto make a moral decision, psychologists can have a surety that thechosen course of action has a valid professional explanation asdictated by the code of ethics.


AmericanPsychological Association. (2010). EthicalPrinciples of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.Retrieved from

Escobedo,C., Guerrero, J., Lujan, G., Ramirez, A., &amp Serrano, D. (2007).Ethicalissues with Informed Consent.Retrieved from 0the%20Protection%20of%20Human%20Subjects/EthicalIssueswithInformedConsent.pd f

Kuz,K. M. (2006). Young teenagers providing their own surgical consents:An ethical-legal dilemma for preoperative registered nurses.CanadianOperating Room Nursing Journal, 24(2),6-15.

Lincoln,S. H., &amp Holmes, K. E. (2011). EthicalDecision Making: A Process Influenced by Moral Intensity. Journalof healthcare, science and the humanities,1(1), 55-69.

Neilson,G., Chaimowitz, G., &amp Zuckerberg, J. (2015). InformedConsent to Treatment in Psychiatry. TheCanadian Journal of Psychiatry,60(4), 1-11.

Reynolds,S. (2006). Moral awareness and ethical predispositions: Investigatingthe role of individual differences in the recognition of moralissues.Journal of Applied psychology, 91, 233- 243.