Getting Started with the Casebook
What do we mean by “Ethics”?
“Ethics” refers to theories or frameworks of moral values which influence behavior within a certain community, culture, or institution. Ethical frameworks guide (and sometimes constrain) a person’s actions in accordance with agreed-upon standards of moral behavior.
There are multiple commonly accepted ethical frameworks within medicine, mental health, public health, and research ethics. Some are centered on principles such as autonomy, justice, and maximizing goodness; others focus on virtue; others focus on the moral significance within relationships. When hospitals and research institutions integrate ethics within policies and programs, they are often “pluralist” in that they may include ethical principles, virtues, and the moral significance of relationships.
All ethical frameworks are responsive to factors which shift over time, including culture, law, technological advancement, and other contextual factors. As psychedelic healing modalities enter the mainstream, we are presented with the opportunity to integrate ethics within our training programs. We find ourselves being “pluralist” in our ethics since we value the importance of principles, virtue, and relationships – as well as respect for indigenous traditions and commitment to social justice.
This Ethics Casebook is a set of fictitious narratives drawn from our decades-long experience within psychedelics. Case studies are helpful teaching tools often used by medical practitioners and mental health professionals to strengthen their education. Through these cases, readers can explore specific events and problems, and consider the ethical tensions related to psychedelic healing practices.
The casebook will be aimed primarily at those who are guiding, facilitating, or studying psychedelic assisted therapy (PAT) or psychedelic healing modalities, and is meant to serve as a tool to inform, broaden, deepen, and provoke dialogue around ethics and professionalism within psychedelic healing practices. We also hope this casebook will generate interest among a wide range of stakeholders in this developing field and deepen their consideration of the moral complexities and nuances within psychedelic healing modalities. We hope this casebook can be of support to those grappling with how to develop practices that are ethically sound, mitigate potential harms, and ultimately prioritize the well-being of those served.
Cases and commentary in the casebook pertain primarily to the use of classic psychedelics and MDMA, though practitioners who are studying or who make use of other substances and methods that induce a non-ordinary state of consciousness may find much of this casebook relevant.
We will periodically add new cases; please sign up for our newsletter so we can notify you of updates.
The narratives in this casebook were developed with guidance from our bioethics consultants to guide discussions on ethics and professionalism. The narratives are fictitious accounts; they do not represent real persons or events.
Our revised training curriculum is greatly influenced by our Ethics Casebook, a growing collection of scenarios representing the many challenges guides may face when working with their clients. Other cases represent ethical challenges experienced by students, teachers, and leadership within psychedelics training organizations. The cases presented on our website are not meant to constitute comprehensive training. Rather, we provide them to spark dialogue within the field and demonstrate our unique learning approach.
Readers of these website case studies should not presume ability to navigate the ethical tensions based solely on their brief analyses. Comprehensive, supervised education is requisite to developing mastery on these complex and varied subjects.
There are a myriad of cases that can be explored within psychedelics, and ethics always needs to be responsive to the latest laws, policies, and technological advances. As such, we do not claim that the cases represent all ethical tensions or circumstances that may present during or surrounding psychedelic healing approaches. Each case has many tensions, but our commentaries focus on just a few tensions within each case.
None of the cases or commentary constitute medical or legal advice.
Gather Well Psychedelics does not advocate for or conduct activity using psychedelic substances in jurisdiction in which it is not legal.
Navigating the casebook
Each case has several components:
- the scenario
- the ethical tension
- questions for discussion
- further considerations on the case and tension
- Gather Well specific thoughts
- further resources
These can be navigated via the tabs across the case specific page. Sign up for our newsletter if you’d like to know when new cases are added.
Participate in case development
What aspects of psychedelic medicine concern you? Let us know, and we’ll share your thoughts with our casebook development team. Input from our web viewers and community helps us decide which cases will be discussed on our website’s Ethics Casebook.