A Framework for Ethical Decision Making
Recognize an Ethical Issue
- Could this decision or situation be damaging to someone or to some group? Does this decision involve a choice between a good and bad alternative, or perhaps between two “goods” or between two “bads”?
- Is this issue about more than what is legal or what is most efficient? If so, how?
Get the Facts
- What are the relevant facts of the case? What facts are not known? Can I learn more about the situation? Do I know enough to make a decision?
- What individuals and groups have an important stake in the outcome? Are some concerns more important? Why?
- What are the options for acting? Have all the relevant persons and groups been consulted? Have I identified creative options?
Evaluate Alternative Actions
- Evaluate the options by asking the following questions:
- Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm? (The Utilitarian Approach)
- Which option best respects the rights of all who have a stake? (The Rights Approach)
- Which option treats people equally or proportionately? (The Justice Approach)
- Which option best serves the community
as a whole, not just some members?
(The Common Good Approach)
- Which option leads me to act as the sort of person I want to be? (The Virtue Approach)
Make a Decision and Test It
- Considering all these approaches, which option best addresses the situation?
- If I told someone I respect-or told a television audience-which option I have chosen, what would they say?
Act and Reflect on the Outcome
- How can my decision be implemented with the greatest care and attention to the concerns of all stakeholders?
- How did my decision turn out and what have I learned from this specific situation?