May 23, 2024


Profitable business

Examples of Personal Ethical Dilemmas

3 min read

Running red lights

The most common ethical dilemma is involved when you are taking someone to hospital for an emergency treatment by car. The law states that speeding and running red lights is illegal. However, this person might die if not treated quickly and they are in your car.

It is noteworthy to hear the amount of people saying they would ignore all traffic rules and rush them to hospital. You are probably saying that to yourself now. But in reality, few people do this.

Why you probably wont break the laws

You have been conditioned so strongly by society that you will be punished if you break laws and then shunned or publicly shamed for doing so. This is a more powerful deterrent than any fine.

So you will start to rationalise why you wont speed or drive through red lights by telling yourself;

  • I have time and the doctors are really good
  • I may have an accident myself and not get to the hospital
  • I may hit and hurt another person
  • If they die in my car, I did the best I could
  • I don’t want to panic, and speeding will make me panic

The strange thing about this line of thought is that little of it is about doing the right thing and more about your natural resistance to break laws.

You see a person steal food from a store

While shopping you see a person stealing food right in front of you. Theft is against the law and they should be arrested, yet you will start thinking about whether the arrest is the right thing to do. You will rapidly ask yourself questions to determine your action.

  • Does the person look like they are starving or homeless
  • Do the look like a criminal
  • Have they done this before
  • Have they sought help from emergency food kitchens
  • Does it look like they have money to buy the food
  • How old are they. Children and the aged are often excused for stealing food

See how you are trying to rationalise why they are stealing to find out what course of action to take. Yet the ethical choice is always let them take the food. This is because of the simple fact of: If they need to steal, they need the food.

If you report or arrest them, you are not being ethical and doing the right thing. But hang on a second, what about the right thing about all of us. If we accept stealing as acceptable where does it stop?

If I steal 200kg of meat is that need or desire? What limit is acceptable by society and you in regards to being ethical or breaking the law. If your family needs food, do you only take what you need, or do you take more to get by for longer?

The problem with ethical behaviour

The biggest problem with being ethical is that it often means you are willing or needing to break many laws in the pursuit of doing good. Organisation’s will fire you if you make ethical decisions instead of looking after the organisation. Friends will think you lack responsibility because your actions will not follow society rules of order.

Growing up we are not encouraged or trained to be ethical, we are trained to follow laws so that we can all live safely together. Here are some ethical decisions that we have to make often in our daily lives;

  • We know that smoking kills, yet we standby and watch our friends kill themselves by smoking
  • After a night out and some drinks, we let people drive knowing they are intoxicated and likely to kill someone
  • We know that fake products like brand name handbags are made by slave labour, often children forced to work, and yet we buy them because they are cheap
  • Many of us walk past someone on that is sleeping on the streets yet we don’t offer them shelter in our place
  • We walk down the street and mentally, sometimes verbally, insult others we pass by making comments on their size, weight, appearance, sexual preferences, or race
  • We continue to use petrol to drive our cars because we are too lazy to walk more, and consume our natural resources unnecessarily

We all know what the right thing to do in each of these ethical situations, yet we rationalise why we don’t do it. How many times this week have you made unethical choices?

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