Ethical Choices


Course Description

E11. Ethical Choices, 3 CE hours, $21

Objectives: At the end of this course, you will  1. Understand and apply different statements, ethical presuppositions, and imperatives.   2. Describe and use the four-step Ethical Reasoning Model.

START the course here. TAKE exam at the end.  PAY after the exam.

TEST:  Study this website for 3 hours for an approved (RN-CEP 16144) 3-hours Continuing Education Certificate (0.3 CEUs). Test 6684

clockCourse Timeline

40 minutes Part 1: What Statements?
Part 2: What Presuppositions?
30 minutes Part 3: What Imperatives?
90 minutes Part 4: How to Reason Ethically?
20 minutes Test

Course Outline

To deal with ethical choices, you need to find the answers to these questions:

  1. What statements do you make?
    • 1.1 Logic
    • 1.2 Facts
    • 1.3 Values
  2. What are your presuppositions?
    • 2.1 Meaning
    • 2.2 Restraint
    • 2.3 Humanity
  3. What are your imperatives?
    • 3.1 Welfare
    • 3.2 Fairness
    • 3.3 Freedom
  4. How do you reason ethically?
    • 4.1 Consequential
    • 4.2 Deontological

THOUGHT QUESTIONS for self-study:

  • Why is important to have some imperatives in ethics?
  • How do facts and values interact in ethical reasoning?
  • How would you present the Sample Case 4.7 below from a different value perspective?

1: What Statements?

There are three types of statements, definitions, factual, and value-based ones. A definition is a statement that is a definition in itself or that is derived from a definition and could be “2+2=4″. A factual statement is derived from an observation and could be that “the clouds are gray.” A value-based one is a normative statement that asserts what is right or good, and could be “that you are too old to drive”. This course deals mainly with value-based or normative statements.


Are the following statements true or false?

“It is going to rain tonight” is a definition statement.

“I should open the door for you” is a value-based statement.

“Ethics is the study of right and wrong” is a factual statement.

Edward DeBono, the author of Lateral Thinking, recommends 8 types of statements, namely factual, emotional, critical, creative, managing, coaching, authoritative and humorous.

Look at ethics from the following perspective: Laws and rules were made to limit very bad behavior. Bad behavior is further limited by your personal ethics, which tells you what is bad and what is good. Thus some actions may be lawful, but still unethical. Unlawful actions are in the black area, good ones in the white area and all in-between is in the gray area. Ethics deals mainly with this gray area between the clearly bad and the definitely good.

Bad behavior
Violation of laws/rules
Personal ethics Good behavior
Unethical Ethical
Unlawful Lawful
Black area Gray area White area

One short way to define ethics is to call it the study of right and wrong. Ethics seeks answers to questions like “What is the right things to do in a given situation?” and “What is good behavior?” and “What do I value?”

“What is usually the right thing to do?” In our study of ethical issues, we will often present the opinions of four characters, namely Small Pinker and Small Browner, and Big Pinker and Big Browner. Later you will learn who these characters really are. Here are their four answers. Do some sound better than others?

“Whatever makes ME happy is right!” ………… “Whatever WORKS is right!”
“Whatever is helpful to OTHERS is right!” ………… “Whatever is FAIR is right!”

Some of the various approaches to ethics

Some of ethics concerns itself with describing behavioral standards to see if they are absolute or relative, objective or subjective.

Much of ethics here deals with normative applied ethics that tries to discover what standards are to be followed so that specific behavior may be morally right. Thus this course deals with ethics in health, in business and similar areas.

In an ethical dilemma, there is a choice between two nearly evenly balanced alternatives. In a dilemma, there is usually a choice between right vs. right. In an ordinary ethical problem, the choice is between right or wrong, or between acceptance or rejection. Some people carefully consider what action they should accept in themselves and in others, others accept any behavior.

2: What Presuppositions?

presuppose [pree-suh-pohz] verb 1. to suppose or assume beforehand; take for granted in advance.

What are some of the presuppositions, or assumptions, in ethics?

  • Everyone needs to be treated with respect.
  • Each person has a right to come to his/her own ethical conclusions.
  • It is bad manners to tell others that they are ethically wrong.
  • Ethics that works only for the advantage of the individual with total disregard of others is not acceptable.
  • People have physical and social needs that must be satisfied.
  • People are or can be rational.
  • Different people have different values, thus there will be disagreements in ethics.

3: What Imperatives?

imperative [im-per-uh-tiv] adjective 1. absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable

3.1 What are the imperatives in ethics?

The HF2 Values Model

The main imperatives, according to many authorities, are helping, fairness, and freedom. Honesty is an outgrowth of fairness and is needed to implement the other three imperatives.

Help – Fairness – Freedom – Honesty

These four imperatives can be expanded to include:

beneficence, protection from harm, healing, welfare, relieve suffering truth, integrity, trust, obedience to laws justice, equality, accountability liberty, respect, individual dignity, autonomy, honor, privacy, confidentiality.

The HF2 Value Model is explained, in part, by a look at the opposites. The opposites of help, fairness, freedom and honesty are listed below.

help – harm
fairness – partiality
freedom – oppression
honesty – lie, cheat, steal

3.2 How do the four imperatives affect daily life?

Links to HELP: Caring for the Caregiver-How Others Can Help


Links to JUSTICE: Justice Information Center (NCJRS)

4: What Reasoning?

4.1 Sufficient Facts

Are there sufficient facts to declare a statement true, false, or uncertain and to reason ethically?

4.2 Consequential Reasoning

What is consequential reasoning? Here outcomes or ends are identified as the good and the means are selected to meet that good. The end justifies the means. This is associated with Utilitarianism and John Stuart Mill (1806-73). It is listed below as EndRight. More on this in the next module. Some call it the ethics of consequences.

4.3 What is deontological or non-consequential reasoning?

deontological ethics, in philosophy: ethical theories that place special emphasis on the relationship between duty and the morality of human actions. The term deontology is derived from the Greek deon, “duty,” and logos, “science.”

Source: Deontological Ethics. Encyclopædia Britannica.

We list two types of deontological reasoning.

Immanual Kant

One is centered on duty and rules, often called Moral Law, and is proposed by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). It is listed below as RuleRight. The rules prescribe behavior. Some call it the ethics of principle.

The other is centered on help, care, and love, and is often referred to as based on the Bible, with Moses and Jesus as the main exponents. We list it below as CareRight. The care-process guides action. It is also called teleological, or the ethics of the ultimate purpose. The ultimate purpose, in this case, appears to be the process of help, care and love. More on this all in the next module.

4.4 What is the Ethical Reasoning Model?

Ethics decision-making is first based on the distinction between statements that are factual and those that are value-based.

Factual statements may be divided into true ones and untrue ones. It is wise to base decisions on truth, rather than build them on lies.

Value statements may be divided into those involving right and wrong, and those that involve two rights, both of which can claim some influence on the decision.

When you come to the later, you must decide on what basis that claim of the two rights is based, and which has precedence. Some perspectives may involve the end outcome, others rules, still others care and love. Some are a mixture of all three. The questions before the decision-maker involve the facts of the case, the persons involved in the case, and the value perspective that the decision-maker brings to the case.

Ethical thinking and decision-making deals with the defense and evaluation of that value perspective that eventually decides the case. In this model, a “yes” stands for a go-ahead, a “no” for a stop. The Ethical Reasoning Model is based, in part, on the nine checkpoints for ethical decision-making by R. M. Kidder. The Institute for Global Ethics – Right vs. Right.





To fully appreciate the EndRight, RuleRight and CareRight concepts, students are encouraged to preview these concepts in the next module.


Facts Values

Step 1. True vs. False Step 2. Right vs. Wrong Step 3. Right vs. Right
1. True = yes,
go to Step 2

2. False = no, stop

3. Right vs. Wrong, on basis of
EndRight, RuleRight,
CareRight or MidRight.
Select one via worksheet.

4. Right vs. Right, go to Step 3

5. Neither Right vs. Wrong
or Right vs. Right=stop

6. Right vs. Right on basis of
EndRight, RuleRight
CareRight or MidRight.
Select one via worksheet.
Analyze the facts, actors, and values and decide. Then circle one of the above options and the basis.

Ethical Reasoning Model by Rudolf E. Klimes, Ph.D., 2013


For a value to be right, the valued action has to

  1. Result in ultimate good,
  2. Avoid needless harm, and
  3. Be open to examination.

As you study ethical cases, you are encouraged to ask:

  1. Is this really an issue of ethics and are the facts true?
    If it is a factual ethical issue, go on to Step 2.
  2. Is this an issue of right against wrong?
    Decide if it is EndRight, RuleRight CareRight or MidRight.
  3. If it is right against right, go on to Step 3.A
    1. On what basis can you decide between the rights?
      Is it by the ends, rules, care, or in-between/other?
  4. As you review and evaluate all the facts, the people influenced and your decision, do all fit together?

By this model, an action may be 1) prescribed or obligatory or a yes, 2) prescribed or forbidden or a no, or 3) permitted, which is neither prescribed nor proscribed.


4.5 How would you deal with a case like this?

“The purpose of radar detectors in cars may be to avoid the law. Should they be banned?”

  1. This is an ethical issue.
  2. This is an issue of right vs. right.
  3. This is an issue of Care-orientation.
  4. Radar detectors should definitely be banned.

4.6 How do you reason ethically in daily life?

Put your mind into an ethical mode. Start each day with a short review of your life-mission and weekly plan. Work daily on your ethical stamina. Then determine to enjoy the things that fit into your life that day. Deal with the things that do not fit into your life in a problem-solving way (that is, look at your alternatives and choose the best). Thus you can face each day in an ethical mode, well prepared for the problems that will come.

4.7 Worksheet for Ethical Decision Making

1. Question______________________________________________________?

2. Choices: C1_________ C2______________ C3_______________ C4__________________
(On a separate sheet, present the observed factual evidence for each choice, considering if possible who, what, when, where, why, how.)

3A. EndRight Filter…………/ ………………/ ……………………………/ …………………………

3B. RuleRight Filter…………/ ………………../ …………………………../ …………………………

3C. CareRight Filter…………/………….………/ …………………………/ …………………………

(Check the best value-based filter for each choice)

4. Best Choice (circle 1 on basis of the strength of the evidence, and filter-match): C1, C2, C3, C4

4.8 Worksheet Example

Case: XZ Corporation has experienced 62 accidents in the past year, 21 of them drug-related. It is considering whether to initiate company-wide drug-testing of all employees.

1. Question: Is drug-testing at XZ Corporation appropriate?

2. Choice C1. no, C2. yes, C3. yes, if with consent, C4. yes, if well defined.

C1 facts are: It is an invasion of privacy. It provides data that is normally not publicly available.
C2 facts are: It reduces drug-related accidents. There were 21 drug-related accidents last year.
C3 facts are: It can be made a condition of employment. Employees can sign this right away.
C4 facts are: There can be detailed policies to safeguard its use and prevent misuse of data.

3A. EndRight filter for C1: Workers do not give up privacy to gain safety.
3B. RuleRight filter for C1: Managers have no right to the drug-testing data. Privacy is the rule.
3C. CareRight filter for C1: Managers do what is best for the company, not for the workers.

3A. EndRight filter for C2: Workers must give up privacy to gain safety. The morale may go down.
3B. RuleRight filter for C2: Managers have a responsibility (RuleRight) to keep their workers safe.
3C. CareRight filter for C2: Managers do what is best for workers.

3A. EndRight filter for C3: Workers can give up privacy to gain safety (EndRight).
3B. RuleRight filter for C3: Managers have some responsibility to keep their workers safe.
3C. CareRight filter for C3: Managers can do (CareRight) what is best for workers.

3A. EndRight filter for C4: If there are safeguards, workers can give up privacy to gain safety (EndRight). In the long run, they will appreciate a safer work-place.
3B. RuleRight filter for C4: Managers must follow policy to keep their workers safe (RuleRight).
3C. CareRight filter for C4: If guided by policy, managers do (CareRight) what is best for workers.

4. BEST CHOICE: C4 because (it best meets the requirements of good Ends, Rules, and Care):
C1-C3: There are no data to support the primacy of privacy, likely misuse of test-data, and a non-caring management.
C4: Safety (the end) is more important than privacy, safety is a company responsibility (and rule), and the company cares (the care) for its workers by providing safety in a responsible way.
Individuals with different values may choose C1, C2, or C3.

Note: In the above filter section, EndRight, RuleRight and CareRight was inserted in brackets where it appeared to the writer reasonable dominant values. In cases where it was not inserted, it was not considered as a reasonable dominant value. Others may may have different values and come to different conclusions. The values may also depend on the assumptions of the writer, which in the above case were not considered as separate items but were incorporated into the values. In more advanced modules, assumptions may be considered separatly as filters just before the values.

Source: Based in part on Brown, Marvin T., The Ethical Process, 1996, Prentice-Hall, pp 53-60.

4.9 Ethics Update (Current News, Information, and Research)

From EthicsWorld:

ERIC_NO: ED385872. The Social Construction of Ethics. By Lulofs, Roxane S. 1994

ABSTRACT: While some social constructionists are unprepared to confront the role of ethics in the process of communication, the fact must be faced that as a person constructs reality, he or she makes judgments about that reality. Here are four situational perceptions that affect how decisions are socially constructed as ethical or not ethical within decision-making communities, specifically, within faculty governance at Azusa Pacific University (California). These perceptions involve: (1) the degree to which reasonable choices have been laid out; (2) whether or not information has been presented fairly; (3) whether or not calls for a decision are based on “good reasons”; and (4) whether or not the message violates or enhances humanity. First, one way to help distinguish between persuasion and coercion is in the concept of “significant choice.” For Thomas R. Nielsen, not only must the perception of choice be present, but that choice must appear to be reasonable to the hearer. Second, the ethical dilemma associated with the fair presentation of information focuses on whether there has been a search for all relevant information. Third, in attempting to make a decision, the subject must avoid circular reasoning; Walter R. Fisher presents five steps for evaluating different options in a decision. Fourth, some writers characterize ethical communication as that which enhances and promotes uniquely human characteristics and characterize unethical communication as that which dehumanizes its audience. The perspective of social constructionism runs the risk of being morally vapid, but it is not impossible to find transcendent values for particular forms of communication that can help toward the understanding of communication processes within them.

ERIC_NO: ED150651, Maximizing Choice: An Ethic for the Religious Persuader. By Griffin, Emory A., 1977

ABSTRACT: This paper maintains that persuasive efforts in religious discourse must include a respect for the right of individuals to make free choices. Some of the unethical practices discussed are: deception and flattery, where the persuader, in a spirit of conquest, entices the listener into wrong decision-making; physical or psychological force, where the participants are forced, through guilt, to do something they would otherwise reject; one-way communication, where the listener is not permitted to respond; and legalism, where the motivation for persuasion is a sense of duty. The paper asserts that the ethical religious persuader does not reduce the choice options of the audience. Rather, it is essential that love for the cause be tempered, at all times, by an attitude of justice toward the listener.

Source for both:

A Culture of Ethics

In a report released in January 2008, the nonprofit Ethics Resource Center (ERC) revealed that 52 percent of Federal, 57 percent of State, and 63 percent of local government respondents witnessed violations of ethical standards, policies, or laws in their workplaces. The report, National Government Ethics Survey: An Inside View of Public Sector Ethics, further stated that a similar trend is occurring in the private and nonprofit sectors. For government agencies, as with businesses and nonprofits, ethics are vital to conducting business — with agency efficiency, effectiveness, and public trust on the line.

Consider what happens when employees leave work early or stay out for extended lunches without making up the time. Although extra-long lunches might seem trivial at first glance, the cumulative impact across an organization can be dramatic. Take, for example, an organization with 5,000 employees who earn $50,000 per year on average. If each employee takes a lunch break and reports back to work 15 to 30 minutes late one time per month, the financial impact on the organization is anywhere from $360,000 to $720,000 per year. Put another way, the money paid for lost work equals the salaries of 7.5 to 15 full-time employees.

For management, lost productivity due to employees missing work clearly can have quantifiable ramifications for the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery . And at the individual level, employees should be aware that the actions described in this scenario constitute time-card fraud.

Within the transportation community, when someone makes the wrong ethical choice, the effects can be especially severe given that available fiscal resources are unable to meet growing demands. All transportation professionals represent the first line of defense in ensuring program integrity and upholding public trust. These professionals include contracting officers and their technical representatives, cooperative agreements and grants administrators, construction managers, compliance officers, contractor representatives, and others who carry out vital programs involving construction and maintenance of the Nation’s roadways.

“Across the spectrum of highway finance, from purchasing to contracting, to general oversight responsibilities directed at improving public safety and protecting the public trust, the most important element of America’s infrastructure is the public’s confidence in it and in those responsible for it,” says Federal Highway Administrator Thomas J. Madison, Jr., “The actions of those charged with directing America’s infrastructure — from capacity enhancements to bridge inspections to megaprojects from coast to coast — must be ethical and worthy of the public’s trust.”

ERC’s President Patricia J. Harned agrees: “The most important asset of government is public trust. Citizens believe that elected officials, political appointees, and career public servants are acting in their best interest. When public trust erodes, government effectiveness is hindered.”


TEST for the 3 CE hours course:

Study this web-site for 3 hours for an approved (RN-CEP 16144) 3-hours Continuing Education Certificate (0.3 CEUs). 


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