Healthcare Paper Assignment


HN450-1: Evaluate the legal issues that influence the work of human service professionals

GEL-1.1: Demonstrate college-level communication through the composition of original materials in Standard American English.

Samantha Smith is a case manager at the county human services department in her community. She works primarily with intellectually disabled clients, assisting them to receive the services they need. Samantha is good at her job and her clients often become quite comfortable with her. Ian is a client of Samantha’s. With an IQ of 55, he remains quite self-sufficient, living in his own small apartment and working at a part-time job. Ian is often transported to his appointments by his sister, Kate. Samantha is introduced to Kate in the waiting room when she comes to get Ian for a recent appointment.

During the visit, Ian reports to Samantha that he has been a bit forgetful lately. He shares that this past week, he returned home and realized he forgot to turn off his stove when he left for an appointment. Later that afternoon, Kate calls Samantha and asks how her brother is doing. She is worried about him and asks if Samantha can give her information about him to alleviate her concern.

Use the Internet and the Kaplan library to investigate the legal challenges of working with individuals with intellectual disabilities. In a 3-5-page paper, respond to the following questions:

Identify the main legal issues associated with working with intellectually disabled clients.
Discuss the legal issues raised by Ian’s situation.
What steps should Samantha take next? What are the implications of these legal issues regarding the choices she must make?
Does Informed Consent play a role in this scenario? If so, how?
What are the ethical implications of this case study? Identify and discuss the NOHS Standards that might apply.
Finally, discuss strategies to minimize the likelihood of these legal and ethical issues arising in your practice.
Please be sure to introduce the details of this case study in your paper. You should include specifics of this case in illustrating your understanding and research of the required topics which are presented in a logical, well-ordered manner.

Your Unit 7 Assignment should:

Be presented in the form of a well-written university level document
Use an essay format, 12-point font and double spacing.
Include a title page and reference page
Be 3-5 pages in length, not including the title and reference pages.
Include at least four scholarly references in support of your observations and conclusions using proper APA citation and reference formatting.
Your Assignment should follow the conventions of APA style. You must demonstrate college-level communication through the composition of original materials in Standard American English. For additional writing help, please visit the Kaplan University Writing Center. The link to the KU Writing Center can be found on each Unit Home page under Academic Tools.


Legal Ethics Unit 7


Introduction. 2

Legal Issues Associated With Working with Patients with Intellectual Disability. 2

Legal Issues Arising from Ian’s Situation. 2

Choices to Be Taken By Samantha and their Implications. 3

The Role of Informed Consent. 3

Ethical Implications of the Cases Study and NOHS Standards to Apply. 4

Strategies of Minimizing the Occurrence of These Legal and Ethical Issues. 4

Conclusion. 5

References. 6


            Like other social workers, human services professionals are guided by a set of ethical and legal standards that seek to ensure that integrity is upheld and the wellbeing of the client, as well as the community, is promoted. Health professionals must respect the personal autonomy of their clients, avoid causing harm to the clients (non-maleficence) and endeavor to do good in their service (beneficence). This paper provides an evaluation of the legal issues influencing human service professionals, in this based on the case of Samantha Smith.


Legal Issues Associated With Working with Patients with Intellectual Disability

            A major legal issue that can arise when one is working with persons with intellectual disability revolves around their right to make informed consent about activities that involve them such as health and discrimination resulting to lack of access to social services. According to Iacono and Murray (2003), all adults are required to give full consent to particular treatment. However, the scholars also posit that some legal situations such as when making a will, participating in a research study, taking out a mortgage or getting married can raise questions (Iacono& Murray, 2003). This means that people with intellectual disabilities ought to be involved to give consent to any intervention.

Legal Issues Arising from Ian’s Situation

            The main legal issue that may arise from Ian’s situation is whether to inform the sister about Ian’s memory lapses that may endanger his life thus jeopardizing his right to privacy and confidentiality. Similarly, should Samantha fail to inform her sister and Ian accidentally burns down his house due to his failure to remember, then Samantha could be sued for failing to prevent it.

Choices to Be Taken By Samantha and their Implications

            To address this issue, Samantha needs to discuss it with her supervisor or fellow colleague to explore other ways of addressing it. This would not have implications as it is professional standards encourage professionals faced with ethical dilemmas to seek advice from reliable colleagues. Another choice of action to be taken would be to discuss the issue with the sister and explore ways of handling Ian. The implication of this choice would be that Ian may feel that his right to privacy and confidentiality has been violated.

The Role of Informed Consent

            According to various laws across the world, all human beings of sound mind are accorded the right to make informed consent. As such, individuals must have capacity or ability to assent to or authorize to a particular investigation or treatment. Arscott, Dagnan and Kroese (1999) point out that dealing with people with intellectual disabilities is often complicated by communication and literacy problems as well as unsubstantiated assumptions by professionals and other individuals that they are incompetent to make certain decisions. Barnbaum (2008) posits that novel approaches to informed consent are important when obtaining consent from people who have difficulty in understanding alternative course of action or accessing their own preference or values.


Ethical Implications of the Cases Study and NOHS Standards to Apply

            A major issue that arose in this case is whether Samantha needs to disclose to Kate that Ian has become a bit forgetful and even forgot to turn off his stove which could put his life at risk without his consent. Informing Kate would mean altering Ian’s self-sufficiency of living in his own which may not go down well with Ian. On the other hand, failure to inform Kate would be risking the life of Ian and his neighbors should he forget to turn off the stove off resulting in a fire. Standard 4 of the NOHS that stipulates that in case a professional suspects that danger or harm may befall a client or others due to the client’s behavior, the professional should act professionally and appropriately to protect the safety of all those at-risk individuals by seeking consultation, supervisions of breaking confidentiality. Similarly, Standard 28 of the NOHS applies in this scenario as it stipulates that human services professionals seek consultation as well as supervision to help in decision-making wheneverlegal, ethical, or other dilemmas arise.

Strategies of Minimizing the Occurrence of These Legal and Ethical Issues

            To minimize ethical and legal issues from arising in my workplace, I would consult widely with my colleagues and document all that pertains to the case for reference in case any legal issue arose. Similarly, I would discuss with Ian on the dangers or risks that his forgetfulness poses to his life and those of the people living near him. I would then invite him to float suggestions as to how we would ensure that his forgetfulness does not jeopardize his life and for those living near him. Should he refuse to inform his sister on his increased forgetfulness, I would act in his best interest by first sharing the issue with my supervision or colleague for advice before informing his sister.


In conclusion, from time to time,human services professionals should be ready to be confronted by scenarios revolving around whether and when to break confidentiality. For instance, in case of suicidal clients, a question often arises as to whether a human professional should inform the client’s guardian. Dealing with people with intellectual disability seems to pose a much more difficult problem to the human service professional. But as it stands, these professionals ought to act in the best interests of the client by endeavoring to do good and minimizing actions that may result to harm or danger. In Samantha’s scenario, though the right to privacy and confidentiality ought to be respected, it is imperative that Samantha breaks it to avert a situation in which Ian jeopardizes his life and for those around him.


Arscott, K., D. Dagnan, and B. S. Kroese. (1999). Assessing the ability of people with a   learning disability to give informed consent to treatment. Psychological Medicine,       29(6), 1367-75.

Barnbaum, D. (2008). The Ethics of Autism: among them but not of them. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Iacono, T. & Vanessa M. (2003). Issues of Informed Consent in Conducting Medical Research    Involving People with Intellectual Disability. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 16(1), 41-51.

National Organization for Human Services. (n.d). Ethical Standards for Human Service     Professionals. Web.

Get a 10% discount on an order above $50