Ethical Challenges in the Provision of Mental Health Services for Children and Families During Disasters
Purpose of the Review
As mental health professionals assist individuals and communities affected by disaster, they are likely to encounter ethical issues. We conducted a review of academic and grey literature to identify ethical issues associated with the provision of mental health care during disasters, with particular attention to children and families.
We identified nine categories of ethical challenge: ensuring competent care; protecting confidentiality and privacy; obtaining informed consent and respecting autonomy; providing culturally sensitive care; avoiding harm; allocating limited resources; maintaining neutrality and avoiding bias; addressing issues of liability and employer responsibilities; and conducting research ethically.
The organization and provision of mental health services during disasters presents ethical challenges for care providers—as well as for communities, coordinators, and policymakers. Mental health professionals need to navigate this ethical terrain in order to provide needed care to individuals and communities affected by crisis.
KeywordsChildren Disasters Ethics Health services Humanitarian crises Mental health
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Matthew Hunt, Lisa Schwartz, and Dónal O’Mathúna declare no conflict of interest.
Matthew Hunt is supported by a salary award from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec- Santé. Nicole E. Pal worked as a research assistant on this project supported by a grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research.Lisa Schwartz is supported by the Arnold L Johnson Chair in Health Care Ethics.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major Importance
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