Moreover, I literally lack the words to adequately express my revulsion. Sometimes, "Ugh" doesn't cut it.
You see, I'm taking my program's clinical ethics class this semester. Our textbook is Corey, Corey, & Callanan's Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions, eighth edition. In other words, this book.
As the title of this blog entry suggests, I don't like it very much. It's just... incredibly bad. To be honest, "bad" doesn't really cut it here. I mean, the book even says that I'm not human.
No, I'm not joking. The relevant quote is at the bottom of Page 93:
Spirituality is an essential quality of being human, and Allen Weber believes it must be addressed in whatever form is appropriate in counseling [Emphasis added].
An "essential quality" is a defining quality. Something without an essential quality of X isn't X -- and something which has all of the essential qualities of X is X. To say that spirituality is an essential quality of being human is to say that anyone or anything lacking spirituality is not human.
It would be far less offensive if the authors had written that spirituality is an essentially human quality (i.e. that only humans are spiritual), but the context makes it abundantly clear that this is not what they mean: in Corey et al.'s view, apparently, atheists aren't human.
No, I'm not an atheist (at least by the most common definitions), but I share an atheistic lack of spirituality (and, in fact, go a great deal further than many, as an upcoming Symphony of Science video helps illustrate). As such, I'm apparently not human.
I regard this sort of statement as blatantly unethical conduct in the writing of a clinical ethics textbook. How the hell did this get past the editors?
Of course, this is just one line in a 587-page book. If this was just an isolated problem, I wouldn't be nearly so frustrated. Unfortunately, however, it's not. The problems start far earlier... with the book's very definition of ethics.
"Ethics" is defined on Page 14. There are three statements which can be considered defining:
... ethics pertains to the beliefs we hold about what constitutes right
Ethics are moral principles adopted by an individual or group to provide rules
for right conduct.
Ethics represents aspirational goals, or the maximum or ideal standards set by the profession, and they are enforced by professional associations, national certification boards, and government board that regulate professions. Codes of ethics are conceptually broad in nature and generally subject to interpretation by practitioners. Although these minimum and maximum standards may differ, they are not necessarily in conflict.
I've shown these quotes to several actual ethics professors. "What the fuck?" was the most common response.
You see, that's not what ethics is. Ethics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the evaluation of human conduct. Ethics is the study of what is right and wrong, the study of how we should act and how we should treat our fellow human beings.
By contrast, this book defines "ethics" as "following the rules set by your profession". What the Hell?
I could go on and on about the flaws in this book. These include its "discussion" of the issues surrounding proxy consent (it doesn't exist), its discussion of the issues surrounding involuntary committment (which boils down to, "consult with your colleagues and follow the law"), and many, many others. I just wouldn't be able to post this review in a reasonable timeframe if I did.
All of this raises a very important overarching issue, however: this book is being used to educate clinical professionals (who often likely never get much education beyond what's in the book). A substandard clinical ethics textbook promotes substandard and unethical treatment of clients -- meaning that it hurts and even kills people. As such, I have to conclude that both the publication and use of this textbook (qua textbook) is highly unethical.
In conclusion, however, I suppose I should revisit the headline of this post and ask the inevitable question: is this the worst clinical ethics textbook ever?
I don't know. I sincerely hope I am never in a position to test that hypothesis.
Edit: Corrected a couple of typos.