Assignment: ethical constructs of ethics
Assignment: ethical constructs of ethics
- Introduce the conceptual frameworks of the ethical constructs of ethics, moral, or legal standards and the purpose of the paper.
- Consider an ethical, moral, or legal dilemma that you have encountered in your work environment and describe it.
- Analyze the moral, ethical, and legal implications utilized in this situation. Describe your role as a moral agent or advocate for this specific issue.
- Consider your leadership styles identified by your self-assessment and determine if they act as a barrier or facilitation during this dilemma.
What is ethics? What is bioethics? How do we solve bioethical dilemmas? These are the main topics that will be studied in this chapter. The thoughts presented in this section are drawn from the historical study of ethics and 15 years’ experience teaching and consulting in clinical medicine as an ethicist in a pluralistic medical community. Those familiar with the contemporary presentations of medical ethics may be concerned that this presentation says little about the three principles often presented as normative for medical ethics: that is, the principles of autonomy, beneficence, and justice. In our opinion, these principles have meaning only if based upon the following considerations.
Defining Good and Bad Actions
Ethics is an effort to determine which human actions are good and which human actions are bad. In order for an action to have ethical meaning, it must be a free action; that is, it must be subject to human control. Being subject to the laws of gravity is not a free action and therefore does not have ethical import. But whether or not you pay debts or fulfill your responsibilities toward parents, spouse, or children are actions that are subject to your free choice. Hence, these actions have ethical meaning.
In order to say that something is good for a person (beneficial) or bad for a person (harmful), there must be some agreement in regard to human fulfillment or well-being. In other words, one must have some notion of the purpose of life before one can say that actions are good or bad. If I believe that my well-being or my purpose of human life consists in amassing as much wealth as possible, any action that would help me amass wealth would be a good action. Hence, robbing banks and swindling widows and orphans would be good actions because they would help me achieve well being. But if I believe that amassing wealth is subservient to other goals, such as respecting the private property rights of other people, I have a different context for deciding which human actions are good and which are bad.
Clearly, determining the meaning of human fulfillment or the purpose of life will have a very important impact upon the determination of good and bad human actions. Striving for an accurate definition of this concept has occupied philosophers and theologians throughout the ages. At least subconsciously or implicitly, all of us have goals or purposes in life. When we ask ourselves: “What makes life worthwhile?” “What do I want to do in life?” “Do I went to spend money on a new car or invest the money to pay for my children’s education?” We are asking questions that are concerned with human fulfillment or the purpose of life?
The Basic Human Needs
People describe human fulfillment or the purpose of life in different ways. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, human fulfillment is usually described as loving God, loving oneself and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. The precise description of “loving actions” is the work of Jewish and Christian theology. A more pluralistic or philosophical way of describing human well-being is to say that it consists in fulfilling human needs in an integrated manner. Upon examination of the human person, we find there are physiological, psychological, social, and creative needs. — While the word spiritual is often used to describe this fourth set of needs, I prefer to use the word creative because the word spiritual is often confined to religious concerns. The creative needs are the need to know, to love, to plan for the future, to learn from the past, to relate to others, etc. — The functions of the human personality seek to fulfill these needs. Human needs and the functions that fulfill them are interrelated. For example, occasionally a young student will study so intently that his health suffers. The pursuit of creative needs hinders fulfillment of physiological needs; the creative function is not integrated with the physiological function.
Eating, drinking, enjoying friendships, studying, fulfill human needs and thus are good actions provided they are performed in a manner that is considerate of other needs. However, if a person does not fulfill a personal need in an integrated or balanced manner, for example, if one drinks so much that he is unable to work, then he performs a bad action. A rapist may fulfill a need for physical and psychological pleasure by obtaining pleasure through sexual activity, but he is abusing his social and creative needs. Sexual activity should he entered into freely and should be prompted by mutual love. By violently forcing someone else to perform a sexual action with him, the rapist violates the responsibility to integrate social and creative needs with pleasure needs. Thus rape is a bad action; harmful to the rapist as well as the victim.
Rights, Values, Laws
The word “right” is often used to indicate a person’s freedom to perform actions that fulfill human needs, and a correlative responsibility on the part of other persons not to hinder or prevent a person from performing the good action in question. Rights are called natural if they arise from nature and acquired if they arise from the development of human culture. Thus the right to food, friends, and knowledge are natural rights. The right to a job, education, or health care are acquired rights. Rights are called inalienable if they seem to he necessary for a person’s purpose in life. Rights are called equity rights if they contribute to achieving the purpose of life but are not absolutely necessary in order to achieve that purpose. Equity rights are often balanced against one another, while inalienable rights are preemptive of equity rights.
As culture progresses, some equity rights become inalienable rights. In the United States, seeking a basic education was considered an equity right 200 years ago. Today, we would consider education to be integrally connected with a fulfilled life and hence would describe it as an inalienable right. Today there is dispute in our country over whether the right to health care is a natural right or an equity right.
The founders of our country were enumerating human needs necessary for human fulfillment when they stated inalienable rights in the Constitution. When they spoke about “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of religion and speech” they sought to describe some of the fundamental needs to which people have inalienable rights. Most of the inalienable rights in the Constitution are acquired rights, the result of cultural development. More then 30 basic rights are listed in the Declaration of Human Rights issued by the United Nations.
If an act fulfills a human need in an integrated manner, it is called good; An act that does not fulfill human need in a balanced manner is celled bad. A good act is also called a value; an act that is bad is called a disvalue. Thus, a value is not some vague source of human behavior, as contemporary speakers often indicate, (e.g.,”We all have different values that have to be respected.”) Rather, a value is a definite pronouncement that some action fulfills integrated human needs.
When considering which actions are good and which actions are bad, we realize that many actions are good or bad for all people. In other words, people have needs in common. Fulfilling these common needs is intrinsically related to human well-being. If one does not realize that there are common needs, ethical reasoning results in moral relativism. That is, unless we acknowledge that certain actions help everyone achieve the purpose of life, and other actions make it difficult or impossible for everyone to achieve the purpose of life, the result of ethical reflection becomes totally subjective.
Our laws against violence and murder and our laws concerning taxes are based upon the concept of common needs. In general, needs that are common to everyone are such things as the need to prolong life, to pursue knowledge and health, to form communities of friendship and family, to respect the property rights of others, and to work together for the common good. If human beings do not have a common and shared notion of which actions are beneficial and which actions are harmful, they would never be able to fulfill their social needs or to form communities. Peaceful life in society is impossible without consensus in regard to good end bad actions and the rights associated with these actions.
In order to educate people concerning good and bad actions and coerce people to respect the rights of others, laws are promulgated and enforced. Laws cannot be formulated and enforced unless there is consensus in regard to basic human needs and the right to be free in pursuing these needs.
Of course, there will never be complete uniformity in regard to good and bad human actions, because we have individual needs as well as needs in common. Rules or laws will not be able to guide all ethical decisions, What may be a good act for you because of some particular need may not be a good act for me, because we do not have the same need. In sum, some needs and ethical determinations will be shared with others, and some needs and ethical determinations will be particular to individual people.
Valid Basis for Individual Ethical Desire
How do people make individual decisions about good and bad human actions? How do people decide that some action will or will not fulfill a basic or acquired need in an integrated manner? Some people depend on emotion — e.g., “I know rape is wrong because I feel strongly against it.” Some depend upon the law — e.g., “Rape must be wrong because there is a law against it.” Some look to the custom of society — e.g., “Rape is wrong because our society has always considered it a crime.” Some depend upon religious directions — e.g., “Rape is wrong because it is against God’s law.”