Social work and end-of-life care

Social work is important in end-of-life care

Archive for the ‘humanist’ Category

Different kinds of meaning help us understand what’s going on

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20140915 EJPC A quick post to give you a link to info on an article I wrote in the new edition of European Journal of Palliative Care. It’s on ‘meaning’ and argues that not everybody searches for meaning in their lives as they approach the end of life, and not every issue of meaning is a spiritual care one. This link is to a brief summary on the European Association of PC website, which links to the article in the journal (the brief is free but you have to have a subscription to the journal to read the full thing or go to a library). It says you can get a 10-minute subscription to download something you want, but it doesn’t say how much that costs; probably an unreasonable amount; but many people reading this will probably have access to a library that takes it.

Link to my article on meaning.


Values is more than a collection of words

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140502 global values mapNoel Timms, the eminent social work professor researching values of the previous social work generation used to refer to ‘values talk’ (meaning saying how important your values are as a professional without actually working hard connecting this with the extensive [philosophical analysis). I came across an example of this.

Below is a link to a ‘Global Values Project’, which is quite a naive bit of collecting up random views about human values, based on a vaguely spiritual conception that we all have basic values as part of our human makeup. This is a dubious conception: I think that most people acquire their values from their personal and professional culture; claims that some values are natural, or basic to human life mistakes the importance of history, culture and indeed blind prejudice in creating our values. It is designed to sell you consultancy with an ‘accredited values professional ‘, whatever one of those is and whoever accredits them, to work on your values using some fairly basic pencil and paper exercises.140502 20 selected values

However, the graphic is quite a nice presentation of a lot of words concerned with values, and there is a version (right) that shows selected twenty values words, chosen as the most important by people involved in the project. These might allow you to apply your mind (or your team’s mind) to thinking about your values. Remembering that thoughtful use of values in working, perhaps especially on spiritual issues, means a lot more than just using words.

Link to the Global Values Project.

Written by Malcolm Payne

5 May 2014 at 1:55 pm

Seeing beauty in people gives them dignity – a good principle for good practice

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140222 Nursing and public healthBecause I’m involved in international social work, I often receive publications from foreign lands, although equally often they are in foreign languages which I don’t understand, or in the English as written by people who don’t quite get it right. One editorial board I contribute to is for a journal published from Wrocław in Poland called Nursing and Public Health Quarterly (well actually Pielęgniartswo I Zdrowie Publiczne but I thought it would be unhelpful to provide a non-translated title). I originally got involved, because the School of Public Health in Wrocław is very involved in palliative care.

This quarter’s papers include a really interesting brief paper, with an English abstract, which argues that beauty is a mystery, but that seeing it in people accords them the greatest possible human dignity. The writer has a set of questions for his nursing/medical students: they have three minutes to answer each, so he gets an unconsidered response. They are:

  • What is good?
  • What is beauty?
  • What is freedom?
  • What is love?
  • What is dignity?

I think these are a good set of questions to ask beginning practitioners in health and social care, to get them to think about the objectives and values inherent in their work. In fact, we could all ask ourselves these questions regularly.

You can read the abstract here.

If you can read Polish you can go the the journal through this link; its articles are online – there are also occasional English articles.

Written by Malcolm Payne

24 February 2014 at 11:03 am

Criticism of assisted dying is not only religious: if it becomes law, social workers will have to be involved

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130108 Tags humanistThe British Humanist Association (BHA) broadly supports assisted suicide, although it’s not a big thing for them – most of their lobbying and promotional work is around various aspects of education. However, they do maintain a ‘tag archive’ which lists various newspaper articles which support their views, and other pieces. It’s obviously done very erratically, so it’s not comprehensive, but it goes back a long way; some of the tags go back to 2009, so you can follow that part of the debate of interest to the BHA back for some time.

Link to the BHA Tag Archive on assisted dying.

Most of their links are about how religious interest groups are the main supporters of ‘assisted dying’ or ‘assisted suicide’ as one of the commentators on a post puts it. You can see their arguments neatly put by Naomi Phillips, the BHA’s head of public affairs (that is, their PR person).

Link to Naomi Phillips’s article.

My comment is that their particular interest does not really recognise the range of views about the problems of assisted dying, particularly from the professionals who would have to do it. This includes social workers, who are sometimes surprised by this because they see it as a medical decision to help or not, and generally support people’s self-determination on issues affecting their own lives.

Of course, suicide is legal, so it’s reasonable for social workers to take the line that people should be free to make their own decisions. But all social workers know how pressure, subtle and not-so-subtle, can be put on people by their family or others who are important to them to do the ‘right thing’. Social workers will also be affected if assisted dying does become law, because it’s likely that health and social care agencies will get social workers to do the family investigations. there will also be a call on existing social work records to see what the history of family pressures and potential suicides’ views were in the past. This means that social workers will have to consider everything they write about what older people, people with long-term conditions and disabled people think about the killing themselves if their physical condition or disability gets worse, in case their record gets used at some time in the future to find out whether the person has changed their views.



Written by Malcolm Payne

14 January 2013 at 9:01 am