Mei Hua shared her thoughts when faced with managing the following dilemma:
Defining the issue
Ronnie and I have been working closely for the past two months, and he has put a lot of his trust in me in not revealing his gambling addiction and financial problems to his parents.
The ethical challenge I am currently facing is commonly encountered by social workers who provide services such as counselling to minors. The question of whether I should reveal the confidential information to the client’s parents/guardians is a tricky one, especially since Ronnie has explicitly asked me not to share that sensitive information with them. Often these situations occur around cases of drug and alcohol abuse, underage sexual activity, teenage pregnancy or abortion decisions, and mental health treatment.
There is no simple answer to my ethical obligations in these circumstances. On one hand, minors have a right to confidentiality, even if it is to a limited degree for their safety. They need to know that they can trust their therapists/counsellors, lest they withhold divulging critical clinically relevant information about their health.
However, a majority of parents believe that their right to know if their child is facing any risks overrides the minors’ requests for confidentiality. In those instances, it is the duty of the therapist/counsellor to share important information with them for the parent to have the ultimate decision-making power and minimise any potential risks.