The ASHA Code of Ethics sets forth principles and rules representing the fundamentals of ethical conduct. Moreover, the preamble to the ASHA Code of Ethics states that "the preservation of the highest standards of integrity and ethical principles is vital to the responsible discharge of obligations by speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists." As such, the Code of Ethics is a statement to all persons served in clinical, educational, and research settings, to students, to colleagues, and to society that ethical conduct on the part of all ASHA members is an obligation under all conditions of professional activity.
In professional practice, every work setting and job responsibility presents challenges that require decisions, and unique circumstances usually require decision-making between several alternatives. Ethical dilemmas arise when one has to decide between equally undesirable alternatives. Without question, the best decisions individuals make are guided by ethical considerations. For this decision-making to occur, individuals must be aware of their code of ethics and serve as its stewards within their work settings. Therefore, adherence to a code of ethics must be instilled into the daily lives and mission of professionals engaged in activity that is intended (in the short or long term) to improve the lives of individuals. Pre-professional education and continuing professional education in ethics and ethical decision-making must be considered as part of the "core objectives" in all educational programs.
The feature articles that appear in this issue of The ASHA Leader provide readers with four different perspectives on ethical decision-making. Together, they cover a wide range of experiences and complexities that each of us have to face in some way. The authors have succeeded in challenging each of us to think about the importance of ethical conduct, ethical perspectives, and ethical decision-making in the complex professional settings that define our daily work environments.