How does one make an ethical decision? What are the moral and ethical forces that influence decision-making? What should they be? What is ethical? Webster's Dictionary (1982) defines ethical as "involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval; conforming to accepted professional standards of conduct”. This paper will discuss ethics in decision-making and what ground rules exist, if any, in making ethical decisions. This paper will also discuss the elements of an ethically defensible decision. This paper will conclude with comments on ethics in computer technology and today's ethics scandals.
An ethical person is concerned with what is the right thing to do. Ethical values should be applied to all decisions that are made. This can be a challenge as there are often many forces of influence involved, ambiguous circumstances or details, and different stakeholder groups with different takes on morality. Companies often develop a set of universal values similar to a mission statement to address ethical questions. This "values statement” would be above and beyond a company's policies and procedures. For example, the Ethics Resource Center (1996) was asked, "to develop and integrate a practical ethics program into the daily operations of a large organization.”.
The Ethics Resource Center (1996) developed a simple acronym of ethics filters to be used on decisions. They developed an acronym of PLUS meaning Policies, Legal, Universal, and Self. This simple acronym provided employees across the entire organizational hierarchy with the same ground rules. Decisions were filtered through these basic ethical and moral tests. In another example of applied ground rules, nurses have long since had them in their ethically challenging profession. Noureddine, S. (2000) clarifies that "when faced with an ethical dilemma, nurses use formula ethics, where ethical principles are applied to a specific case to determine what one ought to do.