Value neutrality has been a constant issue for couselors and physicians. There is a gray area on this matter as there are certain couselors and physicians who adhere to the position that value-nuetrality should be promoted in order to preserve objectivity in assessing the condition of the patient and be able to provide the adequate treatment that the latter needs. However, there are certain counselors and physicians who believe otherwise.
They feel that value neutrality is very difficult to attain if not, impossible especially in sensitive issues and cases such as abortion, suicide, adultery and abuse cases. According to Edmund Pellegrino (2000), value neutrality compels physicians to keep their personal beliefs to themselves and not incorporate these in assessing their patients. They should not let these beliefs be legally binding to their professional career. In critical cases and issues it is best the that the counselor take hold of his moral values and not let these intrerfere with the decision making of the patient.
The couselor is perceived by the patient as having medical authority thus, the patient gives premium to the opinion of the counselor (Kuhse and Singer, 2006). If the latter is allowed to freely blurt out his opinions then the patient might cling on to these opinions and allow them to affect the decisions that he makes later on. Patient autonomy is important for it allows the patient to make objective deicisions or at least an avenue to make one. Faced with sensitive issues, patient autonomy is very fragile.
The might easily be swayed by what other people might tell him and disregard what he initially thought was right. While it is important that the patient decide on what he think is right and not on what others think is right, the patient’s decision may in one way or another be affected by what others say thus, it is essential to mainatin objectivity. However, the process of maintaining neutrality and objectivity is easier said than done. For critical and sesitive issues, everyone has an opinion and it is very difficult to detach from this opinion especially if it involves moral judgment.
Conscious or not, the expression of one’s opinion regarding a specific issue will always be affected by what he think is right. Counselors are just like everyone else, hold an opinion regarding something and no matter how hard they try, the pieces of advice that they give to their patient will always be affected by their moral opinions. Others may even feel that if they fail to express their value judgment, that would tantamount to leading the patient to the wrong path.
There are certain couselors who feel that it is their moral obligation to help their patients in making the right decisions. Personally, I hold on to the view that counselors should as much as possible try to preserve patient autonomy. They should present their patients the options that they have and the consequences thereof. They should present to them the issue holistically in order for the patient to see the issue in all angles and allow them to decide based on these options.
It must be understood that patients go to couselors not to be dictated on what to do but to know their options and the consequences thereof. Burdened with the effects of the decision making process, patients entail the need to be presented with the options that they have and to see in a better light the consequences thereof. If the couselor feels that he will not be able to preseve his objectivity on the matter then he should just refer the patient to another couselor who can provide an objective information to the patient.
If referral is not an option then the cousellor should first present his professional advice on the matter and the options that the patient has as well as the consequences thereof. After which, he may present his personal take on the matter and inform the patient that such is only his personal opinion and not a professional advice.
Kuhse, H. and Singer, P. (2006). Bioethics: An Anthology. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. Pellegrino, E. (2000). Commentary: Value Neutrality, Moral Integrity and the Physician. The Journal of Law Medicine and Ethics. Vol. 28 (1).