Social workers face especially hard moral choices. They are often caught between a rock and a hard place. There are situations in which, whatever they do, moral blame and guilt will result. Thus it seems that moral goodness is not always within the grasp of social workers. The problem of what is called moral 'dirty hands' always looms as a possibility with the realities of front-line practice. 'Dirty hands' are said to result when a social worker encounters a conflict of duties or values and must choose between alternatives, none of which is entirely satisfactory. In such cases social workers find themselves in situations where they can be morally sullied by doing what is morally permissible or even obligatory.
Ethics and Value Perspectives in Social Work p. 219-223