You are on page 1of 5

ENEE 408C, Fall 2001

Ethical Issues in Engineering


In the course of your engineering career you will encounter many ethical dilemmas. For example, you might observe a friend stealing equipment from your company. Do you report him/her to your boss? In another case, you might know that the product your company sells is defective or potentially dangerous. What should you do? The goal of this exercise is to investigate an ethical problem and analyze the consequences of your decision. It is important to remember that there is not necessarily a right or wrong (good or bad) solution to an ethical dilemma. For this assignment, read the attached ethics case study and write a report (about 2 to 3 pages) describing the nature of the ethical dilemma and how you would resolve the situation. The following information will help you through the decision process.

Kohlbergs Theory of Moral Development

Kohlberg, L. & Wasserman, E. R. (1980). The cognitive-developmental approach and the practicing counselor: An opportunity for counselors to rethink their roles. Personnel Guidance Journal, 58, 559567. 1. Preconvential Level Stage I: The punishment-and-obedience orientation. The direct consequences of actions determine right and wrong. The individual acts to avoid being punished. The reasoning of this stage is characterized by ego-centrism and the inability to consider the perspective of others. Stage II: The instrumental-relativist orientation. Decisions are made pragmatically, based on equal exchange. One follows the rules only when it is to someones immediate interests. 2. Convential Level Stage I: The interpersonal concordance, or good boy, nice girl, orientation. Good behavior is dened as that which pleases others and gains their approval. Individuals adhere to stereotyped images of right behavior. Stage II: The law and order orientation. Actions are based on upholding the system and obeying the rules of society. Showing respect for authority and maintaining the social order for its own sake are seen as important. 3. Postconvential Level Stage I: The social contract, or legalistic, orientation. Right action is determined by standards that have been agreed upon by society, but an awareness exists that rules can be reevaluated and changed. Individuals are bound by the social contracts into which they have entered. Stage II: The universal ethical principle orientation. Self chosen ethical principles, including justice, equality, and respect for human dignity, guide behavior. Principles take precedence over laws.

ENEE 408C, Fall 2001

Denition of Terms

Ethics: Refers to standards of conduct, standards that indicate how a person should behave based on moral duties and virtues, which themselves are derived from principles of right and wrong.1 Morality: A system of rules of conduct.2 Values: Core beliefs or desires that guide or motivate attitudes and actions.1 Ethical Values: Related directly to beliefs that are concerned with what is right and proper.1 Non-Ethical Values: Values that are more related to things we like, desire, or nd personally important.1 Ethical Principles: Ethical values that are translated into rules of conduct.1 Ethical Behavior: Acting responsibly in dicult and/or complex situations; with quality character and judgment.3 Ethical Dilemma: A situation in which there is a conict in the minds of people between values. The conict can be between what is right and what is wrong or between what is right and right. You have to make a choice. Integrity: The modern name used to describe the qualities possessed by people who consistently act according to a rmly established pattern people who do the tight thing4 . Character: A regular pattern of thought and action, especially with respect to concerns and commitments in matters aecting the happiness of others and oneself, and especially in relation to moral choices5 .

1 2

Michael Josephson, Josephson Institute of Ethics G.J. Williams 3 Eectiveness Institute, Redmond, WA 4 Brigadier General Malham M. Wakin 5 J.J. Kupperman

ENEE 408C, Fall 2001

Josephson Institute Ethical Decision Making Model


1. All decisions must take into account and reect a concern for the interests and well being of all stakeholders. 2. Ethical values and principles always take precedence over nonethical ones. 3. It is ethically proper to violate an ethical principle only when it is clearly necessary to advance another true ethical principle, which, according to the decision makers conscience, will produce the greatest balance of good in the long run.

Questions for Guiding the Ethical Decision Making Process in a Case Study
What are the relevant facts of the case? Who are the stakeholders? What are their interests? What is the ethical dilemma? What are the options for acting? What are the foreseeable consequences? What are the alternatives? Is the worst case scenario acceptable? What ethical values and/or principles (including the IEEE Code of Ethics) come into play? Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm? Which option respects the rights and dignity of all stakeholders? What intentions or motives guided your choice? What are the benets of your choice? What are the costs of your choice? Who benets? Who pays the costs? Based on your decision what would be the outcome if everyone acted in this way?

ENEE 408C, Fall 2001

IEEE Code of Ethics

We, the members of the IEEE, in recognition of the importance of our technologies in aecting the quality of life throughout the world, and in accepting a personal obligation to our profession, its members and the communities we serve, do hereby commit ourselves to the highest ethical and professional conduct and agree: 1. to accept responsibility in making engineering decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment; 2. to avoid real or perceived conicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to aected parties when they do exist; 3. to be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data; 4. to reject bribery in all its forms; 5. to improve the understanding of technology, its appropriate application, and potential consequences; 6. to maintain and improve our technical competence and to undertake technological tasks for others only if qualied by training or experience, or after full disclosure of pertinent limitations; 7. to seek, accept, and oer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others; 8. to treat fairly all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender, disability, age, or national origin; 9. to avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action; 10. to assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development and to support them in following this code of ethics. Approved by the IEEE Board of Directors August 1990

ENEE 408C, Fall 2001

Grading criteria

Your report will be graded on the extent to which your decision was based on clearly explained ethical values. You must identify the stakeholders and explain the reasons why you made your particular decision. Were you able to recognize and describe the ethical dilemma in the case study? Did you discuss all of the possible options? How well did you provide a sound argument for your decision: Did you discuss the various stakeholders and their interests? Did the decision take into account how it will impact all stakeholders? Did you provide reasoning/justication for why the decision was better than the other option(s)? Was the reasoning/justication for your decision based on general ethical principles and not just personal feelings or opinions? Did you include the ethical principles and aspects of the IEEE code of ethics that assisted you in your decision? How well did you address each question in the case study? Your report will also be graded on spelling, grammar, and writing style.

References
Joseph R. Herkert, Social, Ethical, and Policy Implications of Engineering: Selected Readings IEEE, 2000, ISBN 0-7803-4712-9, IEEE Product No. PP5397-TBR Caroline Whitbeck, Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research, Cambridge University Press, March 1998, ISBN 0-521-47944-4 Charles D. Fleddermann, Engineering Ethics, Prentice-Hall, 1999, ISBN 0-13-784224-4 Deborah Johnson Ethical Issues in Engineering, Prentice-Hall ISBN: 0132905787 Martin M.W., Schinzinger R., Ethics in Engineering (3rd Ed.), McGraw-Hill, 1996 Charles E. Harris, Michael S. Pritchard (Contributor), Michael J. Rabins (Contributor), and Charles E. Harris Jr, Practicing Engineering Ethics (IEEE Engineers Guide to Business, Vol 11), Paperback - 100 pages, March 1997, ISBN: 0780323335