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Ethics within the Professions

Be it as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, administrator, scientist, engineer, businessman, or nurse, individuals encounter situations where their actions are in conflict with moral principles and ethical priorities. This conflict is highlighted daily as we hear the media stories that involve inappropriate relationships between teachers and students, physicians incurring yet another mal-practice suit, and politicians withholding critical information under the guise of 'preventing public chaos'.

In an age when most professionals are required to sign a Code of Ethics before their first day on the job, do these Codes have any real impact on how professionals behave, or is it nothing more than another piece of paper requiring a signature? How can we begin to regulate behavior? 

In this course we will discuss this behavior regulation in terms of the concepts of duty, rights, autonomy, and justice. We will examine various theories of ethical thought and learn how to critically apply them to the everyday lives of professionals as we consider such topics as: informed consent, the patient/ physician relationship, bluffing in business, corporate and managerial ethics, whistle blowing, and confidentiality.

Throughout our discussion we will ask such questions as:  is there a professional duty to act ethically in all situations? When do professional claims of specialized wisdom and expertise trump the third-party claim to non-interference or privacy? Is the welfare of a good society more important than the individual's expectations of absolute privacy or autonomy? How does the character of the professional affect decisions that involve sensitive third-party relations?

This course will attempt to answer these questions through the use of case studies, film clips, and sociological and philosophical essays.

Throughout the semester students can expect to engage in regular class debate, an oral presentation, and a research project aimed at evaluating the relevance of ethics to their ideal future career.

This course will expound upon the PACS 1 readings that focused specifically on Self Respect, Social Capital, Media, and Obedience to Law.