Managing Laws and Ethics

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Law vs. Ethics
MGT 101 Seminar Five Summer 2010

Laws and ethics are a touchy subject, even the brightest minds in the world have a tough time coming up with the “right” answer. When applying social responsibility with ethics, we must look at it from multiple sides; let’s use an example, Robert was interested in learning about the workings of professional burglars. Several years ago, he made contact with someone who could put him in touch with a professional burglar, although the burglar had retired several years ago. He contacted this person, who forwarded his interest on to the "retired" professional burglar. The burglar agreed to participate in a series of interviews. The first two interviews went fine, but on the third occasion, his subject indicated that he was planning a burglary in a new development. This was to be a one-time event (rather than a return from retirement) involving burglarizing the home of a wealthy resident in this development. Robert promised his subject anonymity and confidentiality at the outset of his research, but he now had information indicating that a crime was about to be committed. In analyzing laws and ethics in this case, if Robert was being ethical for the integrity of the burglar and did not inform the police of his deeds, he was being unethical in the social responsibility aspect of ethics! When respecting people’s rights, dignity, and diversity, people are going to be affected negatively either way in certain situations. What we need to ask ourselves is, do we act unethically to the side that is committing a crime, or unethically to those who are not? Professionally, Robert could choose not to disclose any information that he has received from the burglar and still be doing an ethical thing. Professional competence allows this to be ethical while many people believe in the patient confidentiality agreements fully. Decisions like this being made by Robert are the type he would have to live with and possible regret...
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