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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst Moral ResponsibilityAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAging, 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Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the 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Related Topics
Morals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesReview - Morals, Rights and Practice in the Human Services
Effective and Fair Decision-making in Health, Social Care and Criminal Justice
by Marie Connolly and Tony Ward
Jessica Kingsley, 2007
Review by V. Prabhu
Apr 21st 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 17)

How better one can render human services is the theme of this book. This book talks about effective and fair decision-making process in health, social care and criminal justice. Hence in that sense, this book could be of interest for those who are related to human services in one way or other and maybe, particularly for those who are in health, social care and similar areas.

How to better social and health-related services? What are the issues involved in it? These are some of the questions that bother those who are into research in these related areas. This book by Marie Connolly and Tony Ward is one such attempt to improve the betterment of services from the part of practitioners, organizations, policy makers, etc. The authors are trying to make it possible through the understanding of human rights in a much more broader concept than the confined notion of human rights as just a legalistic protection. Their attempt is not merely a theoretical one, but it has more to do with actual cases and concrete situations in human services. 

Human services generally refer to those type of services from government/ non-governmental organizations/ voluntary organizations which are to help people who maybe physically/mentally challenged, social offenders, children and other similar segment of the society. How the professionals look into their issues in order to make the services they offer to them in a better way is the point of discussion in this book. Is there anything to ponder on this issue? It is so obvious that we should give these marginal people, particularly people with disability some extra care and protect them. In the case of offenders, why should one think of offering rights based services to them, if it is known for sure that they were offenders? What rights do they possess? If you have any of the above mentioned or similar views, you can very well have a reading of this book, as it may throw some fresh light in these issues, though this may not be the only book of this sort.

The book is of three parts with few chapters in every part. The first part explores the concept of human rights and its relationship with culture and state. The second part of this book deals with the different instances of human services and rights based issues related to that, which includes discussions on services like child care and welfare, disability and human rights, offenders and other similar services. The last part of the book is a prescriptive account of how one can integrate rights based ideas in these services.

The initial chapters, which form the part 1 of this book, deals with understanding human rights. What constitutes as human rights and on what basis it is constituted? It talks of human beings as free, autonomous, rational agent and all services must imbibe this paramount value while offering the services. If there is to be any conflicting situations, which goes against these values, then the service provider can deliberate the issue in such a way that the cherished human rights are respected. But, what are the human rights that are to be valued at any given instance? For this, the author take the help from Alan Gewirth's (1912 – 2004) idea of freedom and well-being as the basis of all human rights. The first chapter focusses on these issues justification is given mainly with the help of Alan Gewirth's understanding of human rights. Alan Gewirth builds the concept of human rights on the basis that everyone as being an agent has the right to well-being and freedom. Though there may be some criticisms against Gewirth's conception of human rights and moral thought, this book as being a practice oriented one did not ponder much on this issue, but took his thought as the foundation of the authors' model of the structure of human rights. So, whenever there is a problem of conflicting interests, one can take the help of this model to assess which course of action is better in the given situation. This assessment is based on the non-compromising on the core values of freedom and well-being.

Does human rights and multiculturalism are against each other? Or is it possible to appreciate the ideals of human rights even amongst diverse cultures? This chapter essentially focuses on these issues with a brief description of different cultural critiques against human rights that includes cultural relativism, collectivism v/s individualism, the minority group rights, etc. The authors try to briefly argue against all these cultural critiques to show that it is possible to think of human rights as the basic conditions of a life of minimal dignity. In the next chapter, the authors try to bring out the relationship amongst the values, rights and the state. Whether the state can be secular, that is, religiously neutral? Does indigenous values affect liberal principles in social work setup are some of the questions raised in this chapter. These issues were discussed with suitable and interesting anecdotes from indigenous people like Maoris. 

Part 2 of this book, is related to practical issues involved in the human services. With so many interesting instances it explores the moral claims and human rights of the various segments of people who receive these human services. Though it is easily said that one can render human services with proper care taken to human rights issues, but in practice it may not be so easy as we think. To prove this point, the writers come up with several instances that are of not exactly transgressing human rights issue, but are of with much complexity, which makes one to be incapable of easily discerning the right course of action. Take for example, the third party assisted conception. The third party (donor) does this after ensuring that their anonymity will be protected. But at the same time, the child may also have a moral right to know who her parents are.  While the child may have a moral right to know its lineage information, at the same time the donor has the legal right to anonymity.  There definitely exists a clash between donor anonymity versus the right of children to know her genetic history. Similar is the interesting issue of the grandparents who may need to take care of their grandchildren, when their sons/daughters are office goers. Grandparent may consider it a moral right to be able to look after their grandchildren if they wish. Conversely, they may also consider of spending their last period in life with free of any obligations of raising grandchildren. How to solve these types of issues? One cannot merely take a rulebook and apply in these situations.  Similar is the other service areas like physically disabled and offenders' rights? How to solve the intricate issues when there is conflicting rights emerging? Such similar instances are packed throughout the book to show that these can be resolved by rights based human interventions. Of course, the author rest back on Gewirth's idea on what constitute human rights.

Another example of this nature, is the case of disability. Traditionally, the service users are considered as passive recipients, who are either 'abnormal' or 'different' from others. And the service given to them is often from the perspective of service giver, who with all their good intentions will try to protect those disabled, which by itself maybe harmful to those people. Against this traditional view is the person centered planning (PCP), where they are considered as the rights – bearing citizens and hence the service is rendered as per their demands and needs. Seems all right, isn't it? While it is really encouraging not to think and treat them as socially excluded and disempowered, but it is reconceptualized as strength, where the disadvantage is considered more as a product of discrimination rather than the actual disability. Now, this type of an attitude is strongly felt by the Deaf communities, where they identify themselves as culturally a 'minority' rather than as 'disabled' group. Though such identification might be encouraging, but on the same count if the deaf parents start to choose against the hearing future of the child, say, by not using any technological advancement like cochlear implants. Can deaf parents impose their right on the children? These and similar issues are definitely a matter of serious concern when we think of human rights based services.

Part 3 of this book focuses on integrating rights-based ideas. Here, the authors talk of different players that can influence the rights based services. How to facilitate rights based ideas in practice for services like youth justice, child care and protection, etc. is the focus of this part. The writers suggest some techniques (from Trotter's research) that a practitioner can adopt in ensuring rights based services like role clarity, collaborative problem-solving, pro-social modeling and sound worker/service-user relationships. The writers also suggest that culturally responsive policies and legal frameworks are to be there to facilitate rights based services. There are some interesting episodes as how cultural insensitive programs carried out by some states backfired. And the authors sum up by saying that the practitioners, policy makers, organizations all should come together to ensure that services are offered on the lines of human rights and if they are not given that type of services, then, the authors claim that we are collectively responsible! Overall, a reading of this book will help us to gain insights into the 'rights' aspects of the service users.

© 2009 V. Prabhu

V. Prabhu is working as Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati. He is interested in ethics and applied philosophy. Email: vprabhu@iitg.ernet.in


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