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Ethics is a branch of philosophy that studies what deeds are right or wrong, and what people should do to act right (Banks, 2016). The study of ethics involves three branches. Metaethics studies methods, logics, language and the interpretation of ethical notions. Normative ethics studies standards of behavior (Banks, 2016). Applied ethics focuses on the practical approach to solving existent ethical problems in professions connected with medicine and law, and has a lot of different approaches to situations, including decision ethics which is very valuable in that case.
Handle the Situation Using Normative Ethics
Utilitarian ethics is a branch of normative ethics that focuses primarily on the implications of ethical decisions. McCartney (2015) claims that “it can be described as a teleological theory or consequentialist theory, which are essentially the same thing, both having a notion that the consequence of the act is the most important determinant of the act being moral or not.” Utilitarianism has two formulations. They are: act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. The first formulation involves only immediate effect of the moral decision. Rule utilitarianism, on the contrary, concerns the impact of person’s decision on possible course of events (McCartney, 2015). Rule utilitarianism can be described by questions like “What would the majority of people do in that case?”, “What decision would be best in that case?” Based on the concept of rule utilitarianism, the officer should tell the woman about Paul’s past of molesting the girls because it is the only right choice in that situation. If the woman did not know, the consequences could be appalling.
Defining the Type of Case
Applied ethics distinguishes itself from the normative one in beliefs about what is right and wrong. (Hayry, 2013). This means that the basic concept of applied ethics is to provide the greatest good for people in a particular situation. Applied ethics have a lot of different ways to approach particular situations (Ford & Richardson, 2013). That case can be referred to decision ethics. Decision ethics is a totality of personal standards and beliefs intended to take an ethically right position. After analyzing possible consequences, the probation officer decides that in the context of possible danger for the woman’s children it is best for her to know about Paul’s past. The officer makes his decision, convinced that the possible development of events may be far worse than a breakup with Paul.
The Professional Code of Ethics for the Case
According to the Probation Institute’s Code of Ethics (2014), “probation officers shall perform their duties impartially, completely, and diligently”, serving each case with concern and respect. The professionalism of probation officers can be developed by a greater understanding of fundamental values and by putting the values into practice. Understanding what is right leads to the increase of efficiency of probation officers’ work. However, decision making cannot be based just on a set of beliefs. The officer must realize the influence his or her decision may have on the case, and on Paul’s behavior. It also has to be mentioned that probation officers must not fear criticism. (American Probation and Parole Association, 2009).
The Action of Probation Officer in the Case
In that case, it is very hard for the officer to decide which way to act. On the one hand, it may be unpleasant for him to warn the woman about the possible danger, given the possibility that Paul may have changed after taking the punishment for the past deeds. On the other hand, there are some worrisome facts which make telling the truth critical. For example, Paul lied to the woman saying that he was involved with a girl who lied about her age, without saying a word about the past of molesting two children. The officer should act according to the law and ethics.
Applied ethics focuses on the practical approach to solving existent ethical problems in professions connected with medicine and law, and has a lot of different approaches to situations, including decision ethics which is very valuable in that case. To handle the situation, the officer should act ethically and morally correct. However, knowing and understanding of ethical code does not make that case easier. The case is complex and requires officer’s personal decision making. The officer has followed the rule utilitarianism that concerns the impact of a decision on further development of the case. On the basis of personal beliefs and understanding what is right and wrong, based on the principles of applied ethics, the officer decided to tell the woman about Paul’s past in order to warn her. The decision is hard because it leads to consequences. It may influence the development of Paul’s relationships with the woman, and also, it can affect Paul’s further actions and mood. However, the officer is sure that it would be better for the woman to know the truth in order to secure the children. In that case, the officer did what the majority of people would do.
American Probation and Parole Association (2009). Code of Ethics.
Banks, C. (2016). Criminal justice ethics: Theory and practice. New York, NY: Sage.
Ford, R. C., & Richardson, W. D. (2013). Ethical decision making: A review of the empirical literature. Citation classics from the Journal of Business Ethics, 19-44.
Hayry, M. (2013). Liberal utilitarianism and applied ethics. London: Routledge.
McCartney, S. (2015). Ethics in law enforcement. Vancouver, BC: BCcampus Open Textbooks.
Probation Institute (2014). Probation Institute’s Code of Ethics. Probation quarterly: Ethics & values (2 ed.).