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Please form your own opinion regarding each ethical issue below and respond using the following guide as a template for your responses:

1. Consider all significant consequences – direct and indirect; obvious and subtle; immediate and delayed; physical, emotional, and intellectual; intended and unintended—of the action on the person performing the act as well as on others.

2. Consider any obligations that might exist among the individuals involved—for example, contractual obligations, obligations of friendship or citizenship, and business or professional obligations.

3. Consider relevant ideas – including prudence, justice, temperance, courage, loving kindness, honesty, compassion, forgiveness, repentance, reparation, gratitude, and beneficence.

4. Identify the various alternative responses to the situation. Note that this step may require you to use your imagination.

5. Decide which option is ethically preferable. If two responses produce good or two produce harm, choose the one that produces the greater good or the lesser harm.

PROMPTS:

EDUCATION

  • Under what circumstances, if any, is it morally justifiable for grade school or high school teachers to hit students?

MEDIA AND THE ARTS

  • For a number of years, it has been widely recognized that TV has the potential to be the greatest educational device in history. (This includes not just what is presently considered educational TV but commercial TV as well.) Does the TV industry have any moral obligation to realize that potential? If so, explain the source of that obligation and the kinds of changes in present programming that would be necessary to honor it.

SEX

  • What are the ethical considerations that arise in cases where people undergo sex-change operations? Are there any situations in which it would not be ethically justifiable to have such an operation?

GOVERNMENT

  • Many countries have outlawed the death penalty. The United States, as a country, has not, although many people believe it should. Evaluate the morality of the death penalty.

LAW

  • Often the penalty for white-collar crime is considerably less than for street crime. Someone who makes millions of dollars in illegal insider trading in stocks, for example, will spend less time in jail than someone who steals a car. Moreover, he will serve his time in a comparatively comfortable facility. Is this difference in punishment morally justifiable?

BUSINESS

  • It is fairly common today to read of professional athletes refusing to sign contracts with their teams until they are given higher salaries. These demands, which can be for millions of dollars, are regarded by team owners as a form of blackmail. The players, however, believe that their skills are a salable commodity and that they are justified in getting as high a salary as they can bargain for. Are such demands justifiable? Are they so only in certain circumstances? Explain.

MEDICINE

  • Jack Kevorkian (also called “Dr. Death”) achieved notoriety and a prison sentence by assisting terminally ill people in committing suicide. He provided them with a specially designed machine that allowed them to push a button and release a fatal dose of anesthesia into their bloodstream. Kevorkian believed that what he did was not immoral. In fact, he spoke of the “goodness of planned death” and dismissed criticisms of him as “emotionalism.” Discuss the ethical questions surrounding Kevorkian’s medical “specialty.”

SCIENCE

  • Transplants of organs such as the heart and the kidneys are now routine procedures. Before too long, scientists assure us, the transplant of the brain will also be a reality. Will such an operation ever be ethically justifiable? In answering, be sure to consider the various activities of the brain and their influence on personal identity.

WAR

  • A soldier’s thinking about war may change during his service. For example, after experiencing his first real battle and seeing human beings lying dead or in the agony of pain, a soldier might be prompted to embrace pacifism and request discharge or transfer to a noncombat unit. Such a request would not be looked on favorably by his superiors and usually would be denied. Because the man had accepted training as a combat soldier, they would reason, he would be obligated to finish his term of service. Is this reasoning morally sound? Would it be morally acceptable for the soldier to continue fighting, even though he objected to it on principle?