Cooper's Ethical Decision-Making Model Term Paper

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Case #1 -- a Questionable Hire

On the main issue of the ethical propriety of the group's decision to forego hiring Anne, Cooper's model and other objective ethical analyses would suggest that the group's decision was unethical. On the second issue of Felicia's choice to violate the strict rule about maintaining the confidentiality about the decision, Cooper's model would likely have permitted certain kinds of rule violations but not others. In principle, Felicia's decision to violate confidentiality was ethical under the circumstances but Cooper's model would have required closer attention to the phase pertaining to projecting the probable consequences of the decision on Felicia's part to fully satisfy her respective ethical obligations.

With respect to the main issue of the group's decision-making process, the most important element of Cooper's model would have been the phase of defining the ethical issue or dilemma. Felicia would have considered that the intended course of action of the group was both unethical and expressly illegal in the United States as a fundamental violation of the Civil Rights Act and of related legislation that absolutely prohibit the denial of a position on the basis of racial identity. Cooper's model does not specifically address the issue of what happens when one rule trumps another rule about the same subject matter and when adhering to one necessarily violates the other. Felicia would have been right to make the decision to uphold the more authoritative federal law about civil rights in hiring decisions over agency regulations requiring absolute confidentiality.

Cooper's model would also have led to this conclusion on the basis of the phase involving projecting probable consequences: In that regard, Felecia could have weighed the probable consequences of allowing blatant racism in hiring within a government agency against the probable consequences of violating agency policy to address such violations. Either way, Cooper's model would have justified Felicia's decision to report the situation to appropriate authorities for investigation just the same as if the group had simply made the same decision out of overt racial animus because applicable federal law does not allow employers any excuse for violating civil rights in hiring decisions.

Felicia would also have been ethically justified in seeking out confidential advice such as from her priest or from a lawyer, because their formal obligations with respect to confidentiality preserve the same interests as those of agency policy. However, had Felicia better employed the projection-of-probable-consequences phase of Cooper's model, she would have considered the consequences of violations on the part of the priest and she would have sought guidance on the identical issue without divulging any identifying information about her agency or the individuals involved.

Case #2 -- Taking a Leave of Taking a Leave

This case reveals a potential weakness of Cooper's model in that it does not provide a reliable means of weighing the importance of violating objective ethical principles (such as honesty and good faith) or of violating formal rules against the relative benefits to all parties of permitting those violations of objective principle. In this case, the most likely best outcome for all parties involved would have been to allow the violation of formal rules and the execution of a legally-binding agreement that was meaningless in practical terms. If the parties involved followed Cooper's model, they could have chosen arbitrarily to emphasize the importance of ethical values (i.e. honesty and good faith) over probable consequences or, in the alternative, to emphasize the importance of probable consequences instead.

If the individuals value principle over consequences, they would not allow Milo to enter into a contractual agreement with prior knowledge that he fully intended to violate it on the principles of honesty and good faith. However, on at least two levels, the decision to allow precisely that would have been preferable, even from Cooper's point-of-view: First, the agreement itself was so poorly crafted from a legal perspective that it provided absolutely no means of enforcement and no benefit to the party it was supposed to protect, the university. Second, even the party the contract was supposed to protect had actual knowledge that nobody really expected it to become a binding agreement on professors who wished to sign it and then preserve their unilateral option to breach it at will and without legal consequences.

Under those circumstances, both Milo and Cosmo could have applied Cooper's model to justify taking and granting the leave, respectively. Cooper's model would have left it to the parties to determine whether principles (i.e. honesty and good faith) or probable consequences were more important. Both Milo and Cosmo had already demonstrated that they previously condoned violations of policy of the objective ethical principles involved: Milo with respect to his living arrangement and Cosmo with respect to prior instances of professors taking leave after signing a document they fully intended to breach if doing so benefited them. Because the probable outcome of the breach were (1) inconsequential and (2) impossible to address in any meaningful way at law, the better option would have been for Milo and Cosmo to sign the documents and for Milo to either pursue tenure elsewhere or return to the university happy rather than resentful to do so.

Case #3 -- The Illegal Strike

In this case, Cooper's model would have obligated Serge to oppose the strike and to devote his energies to explaining the situation to his union members, regardless of the difficulties. This dilemma would have been easily resolved by Cooper's model because the applicable formal rules (i.e. The state laws prohibiting strikes by public employees) support the ethical opposition to the strike and the probable consequences of a strike would be much worse, especially in the long run, for all stakeholders involved and impacted by the decision.

The probable consequences of the strike are further deterioration of the system and inevitable loss of jobs among the transit system workers. Meanwhile, there are no (net) negative consequences that are probable as a result of opposing and preventing the strike because any short-term negative consequences are so greatly outweighed by the comparative magnitude of the negative consequences of the strike in both the short-term (probable mass firing) and long-term system deterioration. Cooper's model would, therefore, require Serge to just "man up" to the challenge of dealing with his union members and communicating the truth to them to the best of his abilities. Instead of applying any ethical analysis, Serge seems to have taken the easiest and safest way out for himself on a personal level while jeopardizing the interests of his union members in the process, without them realizing it.

Case #4 -- Privacy vs. Safety

This ethical issues raised by this case are very similar to Case # 1 (Questionable Hire). There is a formal set of rules in the form of privacy regulations that strictly prohibit divulging the information about the patient. On the other hand, there are significant potential consequences to real people that could result from following that rule. Cooper's model would emphasize projecting the possible consequences of both decisions: If the rule is followed, some of the individuals who came into contact with HIV-positive blood could contract HIV and transmit it to others because they would not know they had been exposed and that they should seek out appropriate treatment, monitoring, and future testing. By comparison, those negative consequences are much more important than the worst probable consequences of violating any right to privacy that Melina is HIV positive.

Furthermore, there is no need to violate any formal rules to protect the legitimate and important interests of the potentially infected individuals because they can simply be informed that they were apparently exposed to HIV-positive blood. There is no formal rule that addresses what those individuals may or may not infer from the factual circumstances. The ethical…

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