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Ethical Issues in Hospital-based Social Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case from Uganda, with a Commentary

Adia, Denis and Banks, Sarah (2022) 'Ethical Issues in Hospital-based Social Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case from Uganda, with a Commentary.', Ethics and Social Welfare .


This paper comprises a case study illustrating ethical and practical challenges for a Ugandan hospital-based social worker early in the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a commentary. The hospital was under-resourced, with staff and patients experiencing lack of information and panic. The social worker, Denis Adia, recounts his responses to new and ethically challenging situations, including persuading Muslim patients to stop fasting for the good of their health; deciding to keep a baby in hospital with parents although this was against the rules; and supporting a stigmatised former patient in the face of intimidation by colleagues. He reflects on the importance of recognising each person’s unique needs and circumstances, seeing this as a vital role for social workers. The case is followed by a commentary from a UK academic (Sarah Banks), who notes the cognitive and emotional effort (‘ethics work’) undertaken by the social worker to: see the ethical aspects of particular situations; take account of patients’ specific needs; ensure they are treated with respect; promote their well-being; and perform as a good social worker. Banks draws attention to the key role of the virtue of courage in pandemic conditions, which involves working with new risks and facing fears with confidence.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
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Publisher statement:© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:09 August 2022
Date deposited:26 September 2022
Date of first online publication:15 September 2022
Date first made open access:26 September 2022

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