Laws and ethics Essay

Comparison between law and ethics

Law is defined as legal requirements, which are written down and enforced by relevant government entities such as courts of law. On the other hand, ethics is defined as moral guidelines that govern a person’s behavior when interacting with others or the society in general. Although application of law and ethics may differ, in some cases, they may overlap. For instance, murder is considered as both illegal and unethical.


Both law and ethics tend to prevent violations against some regulations set by the society. In most cases, they dictate people’s behavior, how they deal with each other, and how they deal with the society in general.

In both cases, violation leads to some penalty either as punishment or a sense of disapproval from the society. Violation of law may lead to punishment whereas violation of ethical standards may lead to disapproval and in some cases condemnation by the society (Lubin & Rhode, 2005).


Definition of law has terms such as accepted, consistent, universal, published and enforced. Law should be properly described and state a clear idea, in other words, any contradictions are not acceptable, as people cannot follow both of them. Law has to be universal in order for it to be applicable to everyone within its jurisdiction.

In most cases, it does not discriminate people when it is being applied unless in special cases such as diplomatic immunity or cases of mental disorders. The law have to be written , as any law is to be published (Lubin & Rhode, 2005). Law is accepted and so it must be obeyed. When developing laws, different representatives of people meet and on their behalf, they establish laws.

As such, law is derived from the people who have the duty of obeying it. Since the law must be obeyed, it becomes enforceable and that is why institutions such as the police and the judiciary have a duty of enforcing the law. On the other hand, ethics is not enforceable and so people cannot be compelled to adhere to their requirements.

In addition, they are not universal and so their application depends on specific individual, society or organizations basing on factors such as cultural background and moral codes. Ethics are not formed by bodies representing people and so their applications depend on how individuals behave in relation to the norms of a given society (Lubin & Rhode, 2005).

Ethics must have moral values that guide ones conduct. When people interact with each other, there are usually ethical issues that they consider so as not to go against the will of others and the society in general. For instance, it is ethical for a doctor to assist a patient who needs emergency services whether he or she is on duty.

Law does not necessarily have to carry moral values as it is based on legal framework set by authoritative bodies to guide people’s conduct. For instance, when a doctor is not on duty, he may decline to assist a patient under emergency care and will not be considered to have violated any law (Lubin & Rhode, 2005).

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Law carries legal punishments that are enforced by law enforcing bodies such as police and the judiciary. When a person breaks the law, he or she may be subjected to investigation, court process and the punishment may be imprisonment or fine. Ethics does not carry any punishment and the only penalty may be disapproval form peers or the society (Lubin & Rhode, 2005).


Lubin, D & Rhode, D. (2005). Legal Ethics: Law Stories. New York: Foundation Press.