An Ethical Framework for Ethical Decision Making

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Judgment around right and wrong

Judgment around right and wrong infuse normal life. Because of its great importance, ethics touches all spheres of life. It involves individuals acting in a manner that is deemed appropriate, establishing organizations as well as governments that responsible. However, the decision between right and wrong can be difficult in the context of an individual life. This is because while there are general frameworks for ethical decisions, everyone has a personal understanding of these frameworks.\u00a0 This paper seeks to outline the different ethical framework and their purposes. It will also develop an ethical framework to deal with an ethical issue faced in real life.


To begin with, the paper will start by defining the terms ethics and framework. This will help in establishing a proper concept of the issues being handled. According to ( Bonde,\u00a0 & Firenze, 2013) ethics are a set of standards. It is upon these standards that one is able to base his or her choice or decision of what is right or wrong. On the other hand, decision making is the process of one choosing what is right or wrong.

Ethical theories

For one to make an ethical decision, having a defined method for doing so is critical.\u00a0 This, however, requires a trained sensitivity to ethical matters that is practiced over time. Developing a method for ethical decision making is not easy and therefore requires regular practice (Enck, 2014).. This enables one to develop moral intuition, that making a moral ethical decision without necessarily having to consult any moral steps. \u00a0However, it always important to follow the laid down structure or process of ethical decision making especially in situations that are both complex and unfamiliar. This frame should follow the three broad frameworks that should be designed from the three divisions of normative ethical theories.\u00a0

This broad types of ethical theory are consequentialist, non-consequentialist, and agent-centered theories (Encke, 2014). Under each category, we have different approaches to how the theories are to be applied. It from this application that we develop the different ethical frameworks.\u00a0 In the consequentialist category are approaches such as, the utilitarian approach, which argues that best life or life decisions should result in minimum or least pain and distress possible. The egoistic approach in which the aim is for an individual strives to ensure that the greatest good produced is for self. It all about self-interest. The last approach under this theory is the common good approach, an individual's actions should always ensure that communal life is ethical.

Under the non-consequentialist theories

there are the duty-based, the rights, fairness and the divine command approaches (McDonald, Rodney, & Starzomski,2001). The duty-based approach states that the person will and intention of an individual is important in making decisions that are ethical. This is done out of an obligation to undertake such actions. These obligations are the same for all creatures that are considered rational and the rule of behavior is important in discovering what there are without creating any kind of contradiction.

The rights approach is somewhat similar to the duty approach and states that an action can only be considered ethical where the rights of those affected by the action are protected. The divine command approach equates ethical decisions to the will of God.\u00a0 He is the determinant of what is right and wrong according to his sovereign will.

The third category of theories is the agent-centered ones

These include the virtue and the feminist approach. The former states that all ethical actions are supposed to be consistent with the human virtues that are considered ideal. It borrows on the arguments of Aristotle who argues that ethics must be consistent with the life of a person as a whole and not situational actions performed at different times (Encke, 2014). To develop such kind of ethical standard that encompasses the whole life takes time, education and serious training. The feminist approach takes into account the women and marginalized in their ethical standards. Like the virtue approach, this approach is also concerned with the whole life of women and the marginalized.

Ethical Framework

Having looked at the ethical theories, it is now important to look at the ethical framework that drives from these theories. This will help in formulating a personal ethical framework for handling a real ethical dilemma. From these broad ethical theories, three distinct ethical framework arises. These are the consequentialist framework, the duty framework, and the virtue framework.

The consequentialist frame

As the name suggests, the main concern is the outcome of the action to be undertaken. Consideration of how the people will be affected out of the decision is paramount. In any given situation, the desired outcome is one that ensures that the best consequences are achieved and that the best is achieved in the end (Icheku,2011).\u00a0 It is a framework whose advantages are pragmatic, it is beneficial in decisions that involve groups or a large number of people. It also makes it possible to predict what the outcome of a decision will be. The person making the decision is then able to access whether or not the consequences will be beneficial or not. However, this approach can be dangerous when used to justify actions that are wrong. There is a tendency for people to use the end to justify the means used, a people may brand actions that are wrong to ethical simply because they produced some good in the end.

The duty framework

In this framework, one's action is determined by what one considers to be his or her obligations in any given situation and the result of undertaking such actions.\u00a0 The framework creates a system of consistency for everyone. When a situation where an ethical decision is required arises, the set principles are expected to apply for everyone in the situation. It places the importance of fulfilling one's duties and obligation over the potential outcome. It is best situated for those who need to understand hoe duty or their obligation forbids them from undertaking some actions (Encke, 2014).\u00a0 The limitation of this framework is its appearance of being cold and impersonal.\u00a0 Duty or obligation might require one take actions that will outrightly be harmful despite being in line with some ethical or moral rules. It also becomes problematic where there is a conflict between duties in a regard to a situation that requires an ethical decision. Further, the idea of applying duty to everyone in total disregard for their personal situation can be counterproductive.\u00a0

The virtue framework

In the virtue framework, the motivating factor for an ethical decision is the character trait.\u00a0 These can either be positive or negative but they determine how one acts in a situation that requires an ethical application. The main concern is the character trait that one wants to portray and its impact on the situation. The underlying benchmark is the actions that would be considered to be those of an ethical person (Encke, 2014). It allows for behaviors spanning a wide range to be called ethical. \u00a0Because of its dependence on character, the framework makes is not the best for situations that involve disputes or where one needs advice on the best course of action.\u00a0

Developing a personal ethical framework

To develop an effective ethical framework, one must consider all the three frameworks. This is because all have strengthened and weakness and can, therefore, cannot be effectively be used as stand-alone methods. There is a need for interrogation of all the three frameworks to come up with one that is balanced and effective. By understanding the contrast that exists among the three frameworks, the ability to improve on areas of weaknesses is improved.\u00a0 Also, by answering the questions raised from one framework through the ideas of another framework, most of the limitations to an ethical decision is effectively eliminated.\u00a0

In my ethical framework, the first step is recognizing the ethical issue at hand. What am I dealing with?\u00a0 Is it really an ethical issue at hand or is it a lack of facts and concepts. By ensuring that a proper understanding of the situation at hand determines the current of response that needs to be developed.\u00a0 The second step is drawing a list of all the parties involved and how the decision is going to affect each one of them on a personal basis. Who will benefit from the situation, who might get harmed today?

The third step is gathering all the relevant information, this is achieved by delaying the decision-making process in order to consult all information sources extensively.\u00a0 The last and the most important step is the formulation of actions and coming up with alternatives should one strategy fail.

The decision-making process should be guided by the different approach of ethical decisions, the first should be understanding the kind of good that will result from the decision. This is based on the utilitarian approach which is more concerned with most good and least harm. The second parameter to consider is the rights approach, it involves considering the respect for all human rights in the decision. How the action will ensure equality or the justice aspect will be an important aspect of my approach too. The last two considerations will be the common good and virtue approach. By combining these approaches, the best possible action will be taken.

Practical example

The sick sister scenario

In this scenario, I will examine my case which involves making a decision to save the life of my sick sister. As most citizens am a law-abiding member of the society. In the last few months, my sister whom we stay with together with my mom after dad left has been gravely ill. The medication prescribed have been of great help in the improvement of her health. However, due to lack of insurance cover, the medication has been consuming a large amount of the family budget and is putting a serious financial constraint on the family. On this particular day, I have gone to the pharmacy to get medication for my sick sister. There is no one manning the counter and the medicine is within my reach. Should steal the medicines that will save my sister life or not.

In making the decision, the first question is to gather the relevant information.\u00a0 What is the real situation of my sister, if she does not get enough medication will she die? If I steal the medication and am caught will I go to jail? What the rights of the pharmacist versus those of my sister.\u00a0 In this case, the pharmacist has the right to sell the drugs at the right price, however, I do not have the right to steal from him. Never the less, my sister has a right to life. What virtue should portray in as a student and a citizen? Will the overall good be more than the evil of stealing?

While I have the obligation and duty of ensuring the well-being of my stealing, there is a legal and better way of achieving this. Also, I would not want the society to look at me as a thief because I am a hard working student who is committed to scholarly excellence and the well-being of the society. However, having considered all these factors, the life of my sister is worth more than anything else.\u00a0 The great good that will come out of stealing the meds is great than the tag of being a thief or a shoplifter. Therefore, in this case, my final decision would be to steal the meds and save the life of my sister. I am caught and arrest, I will pay for trying to help my sister, the jail term will be worth it. If I make away with, I will have saved the life of my sister.



Bonde, S., & Firenze, P. (2013). Making Choices: A Framework For Making Ethical Decisions.

Enck, G. (2014). Six-step framework for ethical decision making. Journal of health services          research & policy, 19(1), 62-64.

Icheku, V. (2011). Understanding ethics and ethical decision-making. Xlibris Corporation.

 Livingstone, L. (2009). Ethical Decision Making.

McDonald, M., Rodney, P., & Starzomski, R. (2001). A framework for ethical decisionmaking:    version 6.0 ethics shareware. January,[On-line] Available: www. ethics. ubc.    ca/people/mcdonald/decisions. htm.

January 19, 2024


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