Ethics: Client Representation
Ethics is the study of the rightness or wrongness of human actions, based on what society has identified as its moral values. Individuals are expected to observe ethical standards in their daily interactions as a way of preventing conflict and maintaining peace. For this reason, philosophers have focused on developing ethical theories to guide individuals towards making moral decisions. This text assesses these theories to determine how they inform the decision-making process.
One of your clients is accused of murdering her husband and she, as a result, faces the death penalty. An eyewitness has wrongly identified her as the killer, but she maintains that she was in an out-of-town hotel at the supposed time. However, there is no evidence of the same as she paid the hotel fee in cash, received no official receipt, did not sign the hotel register, and the clerk does not remember seeing her. You are sure that she is innocent, and the only way to get her acquitted is to forge her signature on the customer register at the hotel. Acting on instinct, you do it, and then present the register with the forged signature as evidence in court.
This text assesses how theory influenced this decision, and how it would change if different theories are considered.
These are theories that judge the rightness or wrongness of an action based on its consequences (Peterson, 2013). They two most common teleological theories are egoism and utilitarianism
i) Egoism: egoism advocates for the satisfaction of one's own self-interest. It evaluates the
ii) Utilitarianism: utilitarianism judges an action as right or wrong based on the number of people who are likely to benefit from the resultant outcome(s). It advocates for the greater good, and urges individuals to always settle for the option that benefits a greater number of people (Peterson, 2013). From a utilitarian perspective, therefore, the decision to forge the client's signature would be considered ethical because it gives the authorities reason to go after the real murderer, thereby saving hundreds of innocent people in that neighborhood from meeting the same fate. If the signature were not forged, an innocent person would have been jailed, and the perpetrator would still be at large, posing danger to more citizens. From a utilitarian standpoint, therefore, the community is the greatest beneficiary of the decision-makers 'unethical' action.
Deontology judges an action as right or wrong based on its adherence to rules or moral norms. It requires people to always choose actions because they are right and not because they are good or reasonable. It is based on i) Kant's categorical imperative, which requires people to only act in such a way that that they would will the same to be accepted as universal law (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2008; and ii) the 'Golden Rule', which is more or less the same in every religion, requiring individuals to always do unto others what they would want to be done to them in return (Currie, 2004). Towards this end, deontology would forbid the forging of the client's signature not only because society's norms forbid the same, but also because no rational person would wish that everyone be allowed…
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