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Ethical Dilemmas

First let us begin with giving the meaning for the words ‘Ethical Dilemma’. It is defined as conflicts between two or more ethical principles and a choice of action that needs to be decided. Explaining further more in detailed, it is a condition wherein moral precepts or ethical obligations conflict in such a way that any possible resolution to the dilemma is morally intolerable. In other words, an ethical dilemma is any situation in which guiding moral principles cannot determine which course of action is right or wrong. There are many kinds of ethical dilemmas; Dilemma of beneficence, Dilemma of Autonomy, Dilemma of Justice, Dilemma of Fidelity, Dilemma of none maleficence and  Dilemma of confidentiality are some of them. These topics were discussed in this week’s class. Therefore let us discuss more about some of these topics.

These ethical dilemmas can be regarding a certain conflict. It can be simple and straightforward, like a person who makes conflicting promises. What is that person to do? The conflict can be more complex, for example, when physicians and families agree that human life should not be prolonged and that unpreventable pain should not be tolerated. Just when should life support be withdrawn? In such contexts, the negotiator views oneself as having ethical principles to guide the decision-making process toward a good act but doing so is not possible.

Some ethicists have argued that solving an ethical dilemma involves hierarchically arranging the resolutions to the conflict of values, however many there might be. In this scheme, the highest-ordered resolution always prevails the second prevails unless it conflicts with the first, and so on. This scheme is problematic, however, and on at least two counts. First: it is not credible to assert that values and the conduct required by them can be so neatly ordered. Keeping one’s promises and not harming others clearly can conflict but it is not at all clear that one of these resolutions should always prevail over the other. Second: was it possible to arrange values and the conduct required by them hierarchically, it is entirely possible that the same value and resolution can give rise to conflicting obligations.

Ethical dilemmas keeps people with two questions: “What ought I do?” and “Why ought I do it?” It is likely that different persons will select different resolutions to an ethical dilemma presenting itself depending upon the situation, intentions, and the circumstances. Because of this characteristic, some ethicists have argued that ethical theory should not allow for the possibility of a dilemma. That presupposes, of course, that there exists only one choice concerning what ought to be done.


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