There are so many instances in life where ethics play a major role in decisions that we, as humans, make. Ethical decision making processes take place mostly when conclusions are reached that directly affect people, but what are ethics? The Random House-WebsterÂ¹s Dictionary of Modern English defines ethics as: The branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of actions and the goodness and badness of motives and ends. (Random House) Ethics refers to principles that define behavior as right, good and proper. Such principles do not always dictate a single "moral" course of action, but provide a means of evaluating and deciding among competing options.
An ethically defensible decision includes a number of important elements. Most crucial are the ground rules that underlie such a decision. These can include informal ground rules like religious faith, family values, personal experiences, and the personality of the individual. However, more formalized ground rules that are usually steeped in the philosophy of ethics may prove to be much more useful for making ethically defensible decisions. For example, a decision to allow a request for doctor- assisted suicide is ethically defensible using Kantâ€™s Categorical Imperative, a term which originated in Immanuel Kant's ethics. It expresses the moral law as ultimately enacted by reason and demanding obedience from mere respect for reason. Kant in his ethics takes his point of departure from the concept of a good will: "Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world or out of it that can be called well without qualification except a good will." But that will alone is good which acts not only conformably to duty, but also from duty. And again the will acts from duty when it is determined merely by respect for the law. (New Advent).
In recent years, the impact of ethical debacles like Enron and WorldCom in the business world have resulted in renewed discussions of ethical decision making in both the personal and business spheres.