Following a recent difficult situation where a friend of the deceased questioned my ethics; suggesting in heavy undertones that I had exploited a dying man by receiving payment from him; leading me initially to a private crisis of conviction but then a rallying rising push back “No, it is not unethical to offer a service and be paid for it” and “No, it is not unethical even if the person who is paying you is dying”. Rather than fold and resort to living in my leaky caravan living off the foodbank while “selflessly” devoting myself to tireless free services to the dying I think it a better idea to bring the issue of ethics and charging front and centre and have the conversation.
The recording of the RTEOL Student “Roundtable discussion” on this matter is available to all students of the course – either on facebook or it can be requested by email.
In it the point is made that “unethical” things happen in chaos. Chaos is a result of a lack of clarity and boundaries. So the clearer we can be about what it is we offer and how much we charge the better. The pathway to payment must be uncomplicated, clear and easy – for our benefit and for the client.
This requires each and every doula to have a good sit down and decide what it is we offer. Each doula will be different with various qualifications and strings to the bow. I like to think of the things that I am qualified in as the vertical warp of my tapestry – the vertical lines for me are minister/priestess, celebrant, spiritual counsellor, healer, yoga and meditation teacher – and then the role of “doula” is the horizontal weft.
The role of doula adds the depth of presence and beingness and service and heartfullness to all the other roles. A different doula might have a very different list including experience as a care assistant, be multi lingual and have a sound healing certificate and yet the “doula” word on the CV, to me, tells me that they will do everything they do with the same love and care and attention that I do. They will bring the focus of their presence to that dying woman as if she were their own mother.
This does not help our clients know what we charge! But it is helpful for us to be clear how we value what we do.
In the roundtable discussion we talked about the idea of having a very clear price card that either has an hourly rate or a package. We also talked about forming local collectives which would be the point of contact for the family and they would pay the collective and the doula work is shared. We talked about the need to take notes about what is agreed at the initial meeting and to follow it up with an email setting out the terms of engagement. Emma made the point and I agree that this helps our clients feel safe and well as protecting ourselves.
Again, from a pricing point of view everyone is going to be different based on their current life circumstances; those with time and a pension might feel they are at the stage of life where volunteering is the way to go whereas someone else may need to sustain a family home. There is no way we can have a standardised pricing policy that works for all.
I, personally, am taking up the challenge to produce my own personal pricing policy for sharing with our students… watch this space. And… may the conversations continue!