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Ethical Principles of Advocacy

Patients' rights advocacy seeks to protect and enforce the legal and human rights of mental health clients. 

Advocates represent client's interests as defined by the client, as long as those interests are within the bounds of the law and achievable within the advocate's resources.  Advocates do not determine what is most "appropriate" for the client or in the client's "best interest."  Rather, advocates are responsible for advising clients about their options, the implications of those options and assisting clients to make an informed choices.  This perspective is different from the traditional clinical "best interest" approach and includes the following responsibilities:

  • Advocates have a duty to respect the dignity, privacy and self-determination of all clients.


  • Advocates have a duty to treat all those they encounter in their work fairly, honestly, and with respect.


  • Advocates have a duty to act within the law.


  • Advocates have a duty to work actively toward assuring that the advocacy services to which clients are entitled are not compromised.


  • Advocates shall endeavor to develop partnerships with present and past recipients of mental health services to involve them directly in advocacy activities and to enrich advocacy efforts.


  • Advocates have a duty to be responsive to clients' complaints and recommendations concerning the provision of advocacy services.


  • Advocates have a duty to honestly and accurately represent themselves including their qualifications, authority, and responsibilities.


  • Advocates have a duty to identify and avoid actual and potential conflicts of interest which may compromise their ability to represent and safeguard the rights of clients.


  • Advocates have a duty to seek the consent of their clients before proceeding on their behalf.


  • When providing services at the request or on behalf of a client, advocates have a duty to not take action inconsistent with the client's expressed wishes.


  • When a client or group of clients is unable to register their complaint, advocates have a duty to act on behalf of the client or group of clients to protect the clients' rights.


  • Advocates must seek to assist their clients to participate in making decisions about advocacy activities and in advocating on their behalf.


  • Advocates must assure that their clients are fully informed about advocacy activities undertaken, about information which is gathered in the course of advocacy, and about reasonable alternatives, implications of actions, and potential outcomes.


  • Advocates have a duty to represent their clients competently, responsibly, and in a timely manner.


  • Advocates have a duty to keep information received from their clients or about their clients confidential.


  • Advocates have a duty to present facts accurately and honestly.


  • Advocates have a duty to understand applicable laws and procedures for enforcing them.


  • Advocates have a duty to know and improve their own skills and knowledge.


  • When the application of more than one principle results in an ethical conflict, advocates have a duty to use their best judgment in the context of the entire ethical code to resolve the conflict.

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