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APPLIED ETHICS

APPLIED ETHICS

  • Ethics is not just about speculation on general principles but it is meant to be applied to real life issues and to give people specific advice.
  • Bio-medical ethics: Bio-medical ethics is the application of ethical principles to medicine and biotechnology. Two important Bio-medical ethical issues are abortion and euthanasia.
  • The ethical discussion on Abortion (the termination of a pregnancy) may involve two important questions: 1. Whether it is ethically permissible for a woman to terminate her own pregnancy? 2. Whether it would be ethical for society to make laws about whether and when a woman can terminate a pregnancy?
  • Much of the debate over abortion revolves around what ethicists call personhood. To be a person is to possess a certain number of rights, in particular the right not to be killed.
  • People who think abortion is unethical characterize themselves as pro-life. The pro-life argument is that an embryo or foetus is a person with a right to life. It implies that even if a woman has a right over her own body she still should not be allowed to terminate a pregnancy.
  • Some pro-lifers believe that abortion is never ethically permissible, while others think that abortion is generally impermissible but may be permissible in cases of rape or a danger to the life of the mother. Thus, pro-life argument claims that abortion is unjust killing, so, it is unethical and society should pass laws prohibiting it.
  • People who believe that abortion in some cases can be ethically permissible are termed as pro-choice. The Pro-choice argument is that a woman has a right over her body and even if an embryo is a person, a woman still has the right to terminate a pregnancy in defense of her rights.
  • Some in this camp believe that abortion is always permissible; some believe that it is rarely permissible and others believe that even if abortion is unethical society still should not have laws against it.

Euthanasia:

  • Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending the life of someone who is suffering from an incurable illness or is in irreversible coma. In the last stages of a terminal illness, patients, who don’t want to live the rest of life in agonizing pain, may ask a doctor or family member to help them end their lives.
  • Euthanasia may be active or passive: active euthanasia is one, where a person physically helps a person end one’s life. For example, it may involve a doctor taking steps to end a patient’s life, such as prescribing a lethal medicine.  APPLIED ETHICS
  • In passive euthanasia, on the other hand, a person has no active role in ending life. In this case life sustaining treatment may be withdrawn.
  • Euthanasia may be voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary: Voluntary euthanasia denotes that a patient has actively consented to end his or her life.
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia means that a person’s life is ended without knowledge of one’s wishes but according to the wishes of a person’s family. Involuntary euthanasia happens when a terminally ill person’s life is ended against that person’s wishes.
  • Some ethicists maintain that passive voluntary or non-voluntary euthanasia in general may be ethically permissible, and that ethical problems with non-voluntary euthanasia can be avoided to a great extent through an advanced directive.
  • According to others, life is too precious to be sacrificed under coy circus however, in some cases life itself may become miserable with unbearable pain, in other words, life may be become akin to ‘living hell’.
  • In the final stages of a terminal illness, a patient can be in so much pain that one may come to see ending the pain as preferable to living on for a short period of time.
  • To deprive some one of this wish seems unusually cruel to many people. A person should be allowed to die with dignity rather than be forced to stay alive to the bitter end.
  • Someone seeking to commit suicide would be seen as mentally ill and in need of help, such a decision can be regarded as irrational. While contemplating suicide, a person may believe that one will never be happy again, but in reality pain often subsides.
  • However, the terminally ill patient often has the specific information that the future is indeed short and that the pain won’t subside. Such a decision cannot be termed irrational and it may be in sync with individual’s autonomy.
  • According to opponents of euthanasia, active euthanasia has another name- murder. They argue that physicians who help patients commit suicide will tarnish the medical profession and make people more afraid of doctors.
  • However, they may not oppose passive euthanasia by distinguishing between killing a patient and merely letting him or her die. They maintain that it is ethically permissible to let a patient die but killing the patient is ethically problematic, since another person brings about death.

Environmental Ethics:

  • Environmental ethics claims that ethical concerns should be expanded beyond direct human-to-human interaction. Environmental ethics attributes moral value to non-human things such as animals, plants and thereby whole ecosystems.  APPLIED ETHICS
  • There are three important approaches- conservationism, deep ecology and social ecology- which recognize the value of the non-human world, analyse the root causes of the numerous problems and challenges that environment faces today and prescribe guidelines for interaction with the environment. APPLIED ETHICS

Conservationism:

  • Conservationism has an anthropocentric (human-centred) orientation towards environment. It urges humans to be less short-sighted and to amend their treatment of the non-human world if they don’t want to end up harming themselves in the long run.
  • Conservationism recognizes that protecting the non-human world is an important human interest and prescribes forming of policies by taking into consideration cost-benefit analysis.
  • However, conservationism attributes instrumental value to the environment, it emphasises that humanity needs to conserve and preserve nature, since humanity cannot do without it.
  • In other words, fulfilment of human interests depends on a well-maintained non-human world.

Deep Ecology:

  • According to deep ecology, the root of environmental problems stems from the very deep and basic misconception that humans have about their relation with nature. Humans tend to think that they are fundamentally independent from nature.
  • However, humans are actually essentially interconnected components of larger ecosystems and the biotic world. According to deep ecology, until humans recognize this very deep and fundamental interconnection, they will continue to dominate and control the non-human world and strip its resources unmindfully to satisfy human interests.
  • One of the central notions of deep ecology is that all members of the biotic community as well as the ecosystem itself are valuable.
  • Deep ecology has two main founders: Arne Naess and Aldo Leopold, although they have some differences but they are united in maintaining that a valid environmental strategy, firstly, must see the world and value in holistic terms instead of in individualistic terms.
  • That is, it is the whole environment which has inherent value and humans should really think in terms of what benefit the whole when deciding how to act. Secondly, it must be recognized that human beings are components of the environment and are not separate from or outside of it.
  • Critics challenge the eco-centric approach of deep ecology arguing that it is fascist, since it places too much power in the hands of the whole, it may end up oppressing the individuals within it. As a response to the critics, some deep ecologists have argued for a weaker version of deep ecology.
  • They argue that humans can be given a primary place of value, but not in a dictatorial sense. Instead, the interests of other members of the biotic community, as well as the ecosystem as a whole, need to be taken into moral consideration while planning actions or behaviours or setting social policy. APPLIED ETHICS

Social Ecology:

  • According to social ecology, humans have a habit of structuring their relationships in terms of hierarchies, domination and control, and these factors degrade their environmental behaviours as well.
  • Humans organize societies, institutions and practices in ways that benefit the powerful and exploit the weak, encouraging those on the top to see those at the bottom as tools or resources.
  • Eventually, this domination spills over into people’s behaviours and policies toward the environment. Thus, the root cause or cancer is the logic of domination.
  • To get rid of this way of thinking, social ecologists claim that we must take steps to transform our personal relationships and work hard to transform the social and political frameworks around us so that we spread and promote radically egalitarian approaches to human social interaction.
  • If collectively humans can commit to these goals, humanity’s stance toward the environment will gradually change in a wholesale manner for the better.

Eco-feminism:

  • Eco-feminism agrees with social ecology that the cause of environmental problems lies in an internalization of the logic of domination, but eco-feminists think that the main or primary pattern of domination in society is by men over women, a system called patriarchy.
  • Thus, the eco-feminists believe that the primary focus should be on challenging and eliminating patriarchal dimensions from social and personal interactions. If society can do this, then eco-friendly behaviour will result.
  • The eco-feminists have an interesting argument relating patriarchy to the mistreatment of the environment. Following through the logic of domination, starting with the domination of women by men, ends with the domination of nature.
  • According to eco-feminists, if society can overcome the male domination of women, the chain of logic collapses and nature is eventually freed from the bad effects of humanity’s own social cancer.

Professional Ethics:

Although different professions have different professional responsibilities, but all professions share a commitment to some general points of ethics:

Conflicts of interest:

  • Professionals often find themselves in situations where they can enjoy benefits not available to the regular public. When someone’s work stands to serve an interest in conflict with their obligations as a professional, that person is experiencing a conflict of interest.
  • Conflicts of interest are problematic for professionals because they threaten to undermine the impartial, trained judgments that make professions so beneficial to society.
  • The most common type of conflict of interest is when a professional is offered gifts or monetary bribes to sway her expert judgment. Not all conflicts of interest rare quite as evident as accepting money or gifts as a bribe.
  • Some conflicts are more subtle. Professionals are better off by avoiding conflicts of interest because they must maintain the integrity of their professional judgment.
  • Even when a conflict of interest won’t necessarily lead to compromised professional judgment, professionals always should disclose the conflict to both interests.
  • A conflict of interest itself may not always be the death of professional judgment, but hiding conflicts almost always signifies that something dubious is going on.  APPLIED ETHICS

Whistle-blowing:

  • When the organization, a professional works for, does something unethical that needs to come to light, plenty of people may feel an obligation to disclose the information to outside sources.
  • When people bring these bad practices to light  without the company’s permission, it’s called whistle-blowing.
  • Disclosing information about unethical activity may sound fairly easy, but in real life, the decision to blow the whistle is anything but simple.

Generally, a professional is obligated to blow the whistle when:

  1. The harm or ethical wrongdoing is serious in nature and will continue if not made public.
  2. The professional has exhausted all reasonable procedures for solving the problem within the organization.
  3. The professional has enough evidence to make a plausible case to the public.
  • Professional ethics suggests that a duty to public safety comes first, but it can be difficult for organizations to appreciate disloyalty, even when it happens for the public good.  APPLIED ETHICS

ETHICS LECTURES

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