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Principles Ethics - Suggested readings for how to apply?

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Principles Ethics - Suggested readings for how to apply?

Post by EthicsQuestions » June 10th, 2019, 3:45 am

Hi guys,

As you will be able to see from some of my other messages I am new to Ethics. I am studying this in my own time in the hope of being able to learn something that I can apply. At this stage I have had a lot of trouble understand how what I have learned so far can be applied.

In any case, one of the things I have recently learned about is called "Principles". For those who are unfamiliar, there are four principles involved in this type of ethical decision making:

1. Autonomy - respect the rights of others.
2. Beneficience - do good.
3. Non-malificience - do no harm.
4. Justice - treat people fairly.

While these principles seem useful at first, I really don't understand how they could be applied in a real ethical dilemma. They are useful only when you don't actually need to make a hard decision. For example, how could these principles assist a medical doctor in making a decision to perform a risky surgery?

1. The patient wants the surgery.
2. The surgery is good - only if it works and does not kill the patient.
3. The surgery clearly does harm and has the potential to do harm.
4. Doing a risky surgery means that the doctor is not available to perform a less risky surgery on another patient (fairness).

What about another example - and this example is of the most interest to me. If you are given a job where you have $10,000 to give away each week, how would you decide who gets the money and how much? Let us say that you work in an office as a Councillor. None of your clients know that your wealthy employer allocates $10,000 to you each week to give to some of them. You need to choose to give the money to and you need to make the decision at the end of each counselling session. You cannot wait until the end of the week and then call the client. Some people have crippling debt and $3000 would be enough to help them - but that would only leave you with $7000 for everyone else you will see in the week. Also (this is the part I am most curioust about), how could you make an ethical decision about what to give the first person you meet without knowing the problems that all your other clients are going to tell you about throughout the week? Perhaps your first client has no money and has a severe tooth ache - you give him $4000 to see a dentist for a very expensive extraction. The next client is dying of disease X and it turns out that they need $10,000 for the cure - if you had not paid for the dentist, you could have saved someones life.

Are there any ethically correct answers to these questions?

Thanks for taking the time to read.

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