Simple question, what is a code of ethics? Well, in a business, it is what the business wants to use as rules for how their company should behave, and how the company needs to treat others. For life, it is a bit more gray then that. For one, each person has a different set of morals and what is acceptable. For some parents, spanking a child is completely moral and acceptable, for other parents, it is abuse and no parent should do it no matter what. It is not easy to set a code of ethics, especially in a society where there are so many different beliefs, views, and values. I will give a stab at what I think would be a good code of ethics.
1: Do not do to someone else what you do not want done to you. This is obvious because we all want to be treated good (good is different for others, but that is another story), however, we can all agree that being kind and not bothering someone when they are not bothering anyone else is an almost universally accepted belief. Things like murder, rape, and unwanted assault are forbidden and shall be punished. They will serve life in prison for breaking the autonomy of another human being.
2: Lying can be good, but should not be used all the time. Let’s face it, how many of us have lied? But, was it to help someone? Sometimes you need to lie in order to keep something worse from happening. What if a killer is looking for your friend? Do you tell them, or do you lie? Lying would be the better option, because it would save your friend’s life. However, lying just for the sake of getting out of something is not good, and people should avoid doing that because it can really hurt society if you have too many people who lie.
3: Don’t steal, this one is obvious, but stealing can really turn a society upside down. When we work hard to buy something with the money we earned from working hard, it would make us feel horrible if someone just up and took what we worked so hard to obtain. Yes, some people steal out of necessity, but even then, it is not good to steal from someone else. That person is being violated and they are feeling like they had something taken away from them. Stealing also violates our autonomy and it should not be broken.
4: Don’t slander someone else. This is a big one that a lot of people don’t talk about as much. However, I think that people should considering that slander is something that can (and often does) happen to all of us. How many people’s reputations have been ruined by vicious rumors? How many relationships have been ruined by that? How many times have people lost their job due to someone slandering them? This is why a rule of ethics like this should be high on the list. Because rumors are believed too easily and it can hurt someone and ruin their lives. Slandering is something we would not want, so maybe we should think before we do it to someone else.
5: Misinformation, this is one that a lot of society does not talk about, people may think that it is not very harmful to misinform people, but think about all of the hate against certain minority groups just because people believe anything that is said about them. This is how ignorance is bred. This is how violence against other groups happens, so yes, this should be a moral and ethical standard that every society must meet. Misinformation can do more harm than lying. If someone finds out something is a lie, then people can dismiss it, but misinformation is harder to disprove since a lot of people are ready to believe something in the first place. A moral society should place honesty and correct information as a high priority because that way people can figure out what is correct information and what is not. There should be penalties for deliberate misinformation.
Living up to all of these ethics will make a society function better, and it will ensure that people are treating each other right and that people are good to each other will help a society function like a well-oiled machine.
Those are good ethics to live by. However, a lot of people have a hard time trying to live up to those ethics. What makes it hard? For one thing, people sometimes people want to do the ethical value thing, but instead, they act on their emotional desires. Putting emotions into your thinking can help sometimes, however, it can also hurt your thinking. What if a black person attacked your daughter, if you make an emotional judgment that all blacks are the same based on that emotional appeal, it could keep someone from doing their job properly. It could lead to discrimination and that could get a case worker fired.
Another problem is when values collide. What if you have to tell a lie just to save a life? Lying we know is wrong, but we also know that killing is wrong. For some people, it has to do with which priority they place higher. If murder is a worse sin than lying, and some people see lying as worse. This could be hard for a case worker to overcome if your ethics conflict on which one is more important to you as an individual. What if the case worker knows of his their clients who is lying, but if the case worker pushes too hard, and the individual tells the secret then the caseworker has to divulge the secret, and doing that could hurt someone. What would the case worker do? If he/she keeps it a secret, it would save the people. What if the police ask the case worker if he knows the whereabouts of the individual his client is talking about? Should he lie about it? What if the FBI wanted to know and they tried to make him break his confidentiality? Should he/she risk doing it in order to protect his/her client? This is a conflict of ethics and they are not so easily answered.
Trying to resolve someone’s ethics can be one of the hardest things to do. It is never easy to pick one, and sometimes someone may be asked to compromise their ethics just to get the job done. Look at Christians who join the military or police. One of the 10 commandments is “Though shall not kill” but when they are on duty, will they stick to that belief or will they go against that ethic just to do their sworn duty? How do people resolve their ethical conflicts? Sometimes it is good to change a code of ethics for times that change. Gay marriage is now considered ethical by the large majority of society. So, institutions that used to deem it unethical should change their code of ethics to match today’s changing population which is more accepting of gay marriage now. However, just because some ideas become ethical, should someone change their view so easily just because it is an acceptable ethic now? This is something that each individual will have to work out for themselves. But, when a caseworker has to make a set of standards, they need to look at the population, and the citizens who live in the community. Is it a community of Christians? Muslims? Gay people? More conservative? More liberal? Knowing the population will help shape the social worker. They will try to fit their ethics to help them make better decisions for their clients.
As to what someone can use to determine their ethics. One good way to do this is to use four ideas that must pass as a test to see if it is ethical or unethical. 1: Autonomy. 2: Beneficence. 3: Nonmaleficence. 4: Justice. Each step in this test can help determine whether or not something is ethical or not. Does it respect an individual’s autonomy? Is it beneficence? Nonmaleficence? And, does it bring justice to the individual or group? Each of these steps will help an individual come to a conclusion about their idea.
The questions to what is ethical is never easy to answer. What is more difficult is trying to determine what ethics trump others in a complex situation. How does someone come to a conclusion on which one to pick? Keeping one’s ethics separate from their emotions is harder. Human beings try to make decisions based on their emotional intelligence. It is difficult to determine when that should come into play. Figuring out how to use it will help case workers make better and more ethical decisions.