Ethical Framework

Subject: Law
Type: Argumentative Essay
Pages: 11
Word count: 2808
Topics: Justice, Ethics, Life Lesson, Morality, Personal Philosophy

Decisions concerning right and wrong are common in everyday life. Thus, ethics influences all levels of life including acting responsibly as individuals, developing an ethical society as well as creating responsible governments and institutions. This moral framework is designed to serve as my guideline for formulating ethical decisions (Deigh, 2010). Ideally, it takes into consideration the fact that decisions on morality can be difficult to fathom and at the same time they tend to be linked to individual contexts. In that regard, a decision deemed right in Scenario A, may not necessarily be right in Scenario B due to the differences in perspective. Consequently, the document summarizes the fundamental foundations for ethical thinking before presenting a framework that guides my decision-making process. 

What is ethics?

Ethics is a set of principles and standards for responsible behavior that aid individuals in deciding on the course of action in a range of situations (Angle, 2004). Often ethics is conflated with other modalities of decision-making such as morality, law, and religion. Despite the numerous similarities that these disciplines share, it is worth noting that ethical decision is distinct given the fact that it extrapolates issues in detail as opposed to the other mechanism (Livingstone, 2009).  It is prudent that a majority of the religions profess ethical decision-making, but they fail to explore the full range of ethical dilemmas that people face in their regular lives (Deigh, 2010). 

Notably, religion tends to prohibit certain behavioral traits without invoking any principle of ethics. Issues such as dietary restrictions and sexual practice lack a foundation in ethics despite the fact that they are highly guarded under religion. Conversely, despite the fact that ideal legal systems uphold ethical standards, often law establishes precedents that tend to dictate universal application a factor that negates the concept of individual contexts in human life (Icheku, 2011). 

Foundations of Ethical Thinking

There are various systems of ethics and modalities for deciding between good and evil or right and wrong actions. Conventional ethics has three primary schools of thought that include applied ethics, normative ethics, and meta-ethics (Johnson, 2011). Normative ethics is concerned with the principles and standards used to ascertain whether an action is right or wrong (Angle, 2004). Meta-ethics deals with the nature of righteousness as well as the justification of ethical claims. On the other hand, applied ethics is the actual implementation of moral principles to particular life situations (Rosenstand, 2012). Often applied ethics is the commonest approach in the field of ethics though it’s “top-down” nature makes it difficult to exhaust the study of ethics fully. 

Ethical theories

Consequentialist Theory

The ideas in this school of thought focus on the implications of particular actions. They include utilitarianism, collective right approach and egoistic ethics. 

Utilitarian Approach

The concept of utilitarianism is premised on the idea that an ideal action is one that produces the least distress or pain while maximizing happiness to the majority (Deigh, 2010).  Utilitarianism is among the commonest approaches for formulating an ethical decision, especially where the implications involve a significant number of people. Notably, the utilitarian approach measures the different degrees of goodness or wrong produced by an action by determining whether it resulted in pain or happiness to the majority (Johnson, 2011).  In that perspective, it advances the idea that the best action is one that produces the greatest good or rather results in the least harm to the majority (Icheku, 2011).  

Egoistic Approach

Ethical egoism is an approach where people employ the principle of utilitarianism to produce the greatest benefits to them (Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell, 2013). It is prudent that there are numerous similarities between ethical egoism and conventional economic theories in the sense that in both the pursuit of individual interests supersedes the benefits to the society as a whole (Williams, 1993). Ideally, in this approach, the benefits of the community tend to be perceived as secondary to self-interests since it is not an end on its own but a means of achieving exterior goals (Rae, 2009). Thus, it is prudent that as much as people tend to make decisions that maximize happiness and minimizes distress the immediate aim of that decision are centered on individual interests rather than the society as a whole. 

Common Good Approach

It is premised on the notion that our actions should contribute to the overall good of communal life. A decent society ought to be guided by good will by the people that in turn will produce that is good for the society as a whole (Icheku, 2011). Ideally, this approach tends to contradict the principle of ethical egoism by advancing the notion that mutual benefits ought to supersede individual interests. Similarly, it underscores the networked aspect of society through a focus on compassion and respect to all people with a critical focus on the vulnerable groups (Livingstone, 2009).  

Non-Consequentialist Theories

Duty-Based Approach

Deontological ethics or rather duty-based approach is often associated with Immanuel Kant. The approach professes the idea that doing what is right is not fixated on the implications of that action but ought to be premised on the proper intention of performing that action (Angle, 2004). Ideally, an ethical action emanates from our duty in that it is done because it is out obligation as rational beings (Livingstone, 2009).  Moral obligations are universal for all creations, and the knowledge of this kind of duty are crafted through the discovery of regulations of beliefs that does not contradict logical reason. Acting to a rational law in a self-regulating fashion makes people bound by duty (Icheku, 2011). Typically, the duty is often self-given as intelligent creatures choose to abide by moral laws. 

Rights Approach

It advances the notion that an ideal ethical action is one that safeguards the rights of all those affected by the occurrence of that action. It reinforces the aspects that human being has the right to dignity thus any actions should aim to foster respect and dignity for people (Deigh, 2010). Conversely, it advocates for the treatment of individuals as the end rather than as means of achieving exterior goals (Johnson, 2011). Human beings should not be objectified rather they should be accorded their rightful respect and dignity by being perceived as the end in all occasions. 

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Justice Approach

The justice approach is founded on the principle of equality that agitates for the equal treatment of all people. It articulates that just ethical principles are those that would be chosen by rational and free individuals in the first situation of equality (Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell, 2013).  

Divine Communal Approach

The technique advances the idea that ethical standards are the creation of God’s will. In that light, what is ethically right is similar to what God commands (Rosenstand, 2012). Thus, following God’s will is perceived as the real definition of ethics. 

Applied Ethics

Applied ethics is concerned with issues in both public and private life that include matters of ethical judgment. In practical ethics, an ethical obligation is not only an action that is right to do, but it is morally wrong not to do it (Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell, 2013). Thus, people have the duty or rather the obligation to perform that action. When an act is termed impermissible, it implies it is ethically wrong to do it. However, permissible actions are neutral in the sense that one does not have a binding obligation to perform them since it is neither right nor wrong to do them (Livingstone, 2009).  

The formulation of ethical decisions requires sensitivity to moral issues and a tested mechanism for exploring the underlying ethical aspects at the same time measure the implications of the decision (Burntwood Regional Health Authority, 2008). My moral framework will assume a three-part division framework that encompasses virtue, duty and consequential frameworks. Despite the usefulness of particular modality in the formulation of ethical decisions, it is prudent that none is perfect in isolation (Icheku, 2011). Thus, an understanding of the pros and cons of each framework is essential in determining which of the three is the most appropriate in any given situation. 

The Consequentialist Framework

In this context, I emphasize on the future effects of the possible course of action through the consideration of the people that will be affected either directly or indirectly by that decision (Livingstone, 2009). Critical focus is on the determination whether the outcomes from given situations are desirable as well as consider whether a noble act achieves the greatest good. The objective of the consequentialist framework is to ensure each action maximizes benefits to those involved (Deigh, 2010). However, it is worth noting that at times people tend to react negatively to the use of compromise which is the primary underpinning in this mechanism. Similarly, this approach does not pronounce heinous actions to be wrong as long as they result in desirable outcomes to those involved (Rae, 2009).   

The Duty Framework

The duty framework focuses on the ethical obligations and responsibilities that I have in any particular situation in considering a necessary and impermissible action. Ideally, ethical conduct is defined by upholding one’s duty and doing the right thing with the objective of enhancing morality (Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell, 2013). The duty framework is ideal since it creates a system or rules that have consistent expectations since if an action is duty bond or ethically right that will remain the same to all individuals in that situation. Notably, that enhances dignity and equality since I will likely treat people in a similar dignified manner (Johnson, 2011). The primary limitations of this framework are the fact that it is impersonal in that it tends to promote actions that are known to elicit pain or distress as long as they are by the ethical rules. That notwithstanding, it does not provide solutions in the event two or more moral obligations conflict (Williams, 1993).

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The virtuous Framework 

With this context, I will attempt to outline the character traits that will tend to motivate me in a particular situation. It focuses on the kind of personality I should assume and the elements my actions emulate about my character (Deigh, 2010). In that regard, I define an ethical behavior the manner as a virtuous individual would do in that context since I seek to develop similar virtues. However, it is worth noting that there are more disagreements on virtuous traits than on ethical actions a factor that might make the implementation of this framework controversial (Icheku, 2011).  

Description of a previous ethical dilemma

In the job that I previously held, I acted as a systems administrator whereby I was tasked with managing the organization’s database. Since I worked for a healthcare company, the database contained mainly confidential patient details about their health status and treatment plans. Revealing such information to third parties would jeopardize the integrity of the enterprise as well has adverse implications on the subjects whose data is disclosed. During my routine operations, I happened to see the name of my workmate’s fiancée flash through the screen. Based on the information she had been tested and diagnosed with HIV and was receiving therapy at a local clinic. 

The revelation came as a shock since the two were due to wed in the next three weeks. I was torn between breaching the organizational confidentiality regulations and revealing that information to my friend or stay calm with the information a factor that would endanger the health of my pal. Ideally, if I decided to disclose the information, I would lose my job integrity a factor that would make me lose my job together with its benefits thus jeopardizing the income streams for my family. On the other hand, failing to reveal that information would put the health of my work mate at risk since he would proceed to wed with her fiancée despite having been diagnosed with HIV. 

Applying my Ethical Frameworks

Recognizing the ethical issues

The critical issues, in this case, include the disclosure of confidential information to third parties. Ideally, the organization that I was working on had a set of rules nd regulations that protected its data integrity. As an employee of the firm, I was bound to uphold those obligations to safeguard the confidentiality of the patients’ record which in turn would safeguard the integrity of the institution as well as my job. Thus, the disclosure of such information to any third party would not only jeopardize the integrity of my job, but it would render me jobless since my action would sum up to gross misconduct. 

However, disclosing the details to my co-worker would save his health wellbeing since he would make an appropriate decision concerning his marriage. Consequently, revealing those details to my colleague will potentially disrupt their planned marriage a factor that may degenerate into jeopardizing our mutual friendship. Conversely, if my co-worker’s fiancée got to know that I was the one responsible with the exposé she would lodge a breach of confidentiality claim with the company a factor that would put my job integrity into question and maybe render me jobless. In the event I lose the job, I will forfeit all the salary and benefits associated with that employment, and my family will be at risk of lacking a steady source of income. 

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Consideration of the involved parties

In this case, there are five primary parties that are involved either directly or indirectly. In the event I chose to disclose the information to my co-worker, his health wellbeing will be safeguarded since he will take appropriate measures to prevent contracting the disease. However, he stands to lose as his wedding plans may be scuttled due to the revelation a factor that might also strain our friendship and working relations. On the other hand, the fiancée is set to be hurt as the exposé will question her trustworthiness and potentially stop her from getting married. Typically, that revelation will make her feel that her confidentiality has been infringed thus prompting her to lodge a complaint with the company for compensation. The move will taint the firm’s name thus losing its credibility a move that will eventually cost my job causing suffering to my family. 

Formulate Actions and Consider Alternatives

The consequentialist framework mainly draws from utilitarianism thus is concerned with the effects of an action to those concerned. In light of this approach, an ethical decision is one that maximizes benefits to the majority while minimizing pain (Rae, 2009).  Thus, failing to disclose the information will result in the greatest happiness since my co-worker will never get to know the health status of her fiancée. Consequently, they will continue with their wedding plans a factor that will create joy in their marriage. Similarly, the fact that I will not reveal the shocking details will imply that our cordial relationship will continue since it will not act as a ploy to scuttle their wedding plans. That notwithstanding, I will maintain my job integrity since no complaints will be leveled against the company a factor that will enhance the manner the firm’s organization perceive my professionalism thus my family will continue enjoying the benefits of my job. 

However, if I decide to disclose the information it will have ripple effects not only to my co-worker and his fiancée but the implications will extend to the organization and me. Based on the duty framework I have an obligation to safeguard the confidentiality of the clients’ information while working for the company (Rosenstand, 2012). Similarly, as a good friend, I have the duty to inform my co-worker on the health status of his fiancée to safeguard his health wellbeing. However, the manner in which I will break the information ought to be designed in a way that results in happiness to the majority. If I invoke the duty approach and disclose the information right of his face, the revelation will aggrieve him since it will scuttle the wedding plans and ultimately jeopardize their relationship. 

On the other hand, the fiancée will seek to revenge for the mess that I have done her by making a complaint to the company on the grounds of breach of confidentiality. The firm will undertake an investigation, and finally, it will be apparent that I was the one responsible a factor that will lead make me lose my job. As a result, my family will suffer since I will no longer be in a position to support their needs. Ideally, this alternative is not ethical since despite the obligation to enlighten my co-worker the decision results in harm and distress to the majority. 

In that regard, it would be ethically right to keep calm with the information since I have the obligation of maintaining the integrity of the firm by protecting the confidentiality of the clients’ details. That way, the information will not leak, and all parties will continue with their lives happily thus generating the greatest good to the majority. 

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  2. Burntwood Regional Health Authority. (2008). Framework for ethical discernment: An approach to ethical decision-making. Thompson, Man.: Burntwood Regional Health Authority.
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