Friday, March 26, 2010

Essay on Deontological Ethics

Essay on Deontological Ethics

Ethics attempts to categorize situations as morally acceptable or not morally acceptable. However, every situation or topic discussed appears to blur the line between the two categories. The topic of privacy is no different. When presenting an argument for informational privacy, there are many situations that one can imagine where “big brother” or someone else may be out to get someone. It is not that easy with physical privacy. Drug testing is a necessary violation of physical privacy.

Most individuals who love all of the freedoms America protects are willing to concede some forms of privacy for the greater good. This concept reeks of utilitarianism ethics providing businesses with leverage to accomplish some underlying evil, but this is not the case. Honestly, there is no way to successfully argue the usefulness of drug testing from a deontological view point.

Deontological ethics requires individuals to disregard the positive outcome of an act when determining whether the act was morally right or not. Even the most compelling argument for drug testing, safety, would come into suspicion because one would have to assume drug testing would prevent some future act of injury or death attributable to drug use. The aforementioned situation requires one to look beyond the act for positive outcomes that may or may not transpire. There are some duties according to deontological ethics that are universal. W. D. Ross, in an attempt to revive deontological ethics, argued, “That our duties are "part of the fundamental nature of the universe…

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Ross believes that when we reflect on our actual moral convictions they reveal the following set of duties:
• Fidelity: the duty to keep promises
• Nonmaleficence: the duty to not injure others.”

Both of these duties can be applied to drug testing. Fidelity is applicable when an employee promises to abstain from drugs and nonmaleficence is applicable when discussing the safety issues surrounding drug use. However, these duties place the onus on the employee to remain drug free not a provision for companies to drug test. Even though deontological ethics may view drug testing as unethical, utilitarian ethics present a valid ethical argument for drug testing in some situations such as issues concerning safety, individuals who uphold the law, and companies who project themselves through image.

Providing safe situations and products is the strongest argument any company can present to validate drug testing. This is also an argument that few will contest. It is scientifically proven that drug use alters motor skills and judgment. This being the case, it would be unethical for a company to not employ measures such as drug testing in an attempt to prevent injury to other employees or beneficiaries of the company’s services. In this particular situation, the company has a greater sense of duty to those individuals who may be in danger rather than employees who feel threatened by a violation of physical privacy. There are many occupations that civilians are dependent upon for safety: doctors, bus drivers, civil engineers, etc. One does not have to be an opponent of drug use to realize it would be hazardous for thousands of individuals if an airline pilot were under the influence while operating an airplane. Safety presents nearly indisputable rationalization for company drug testing, but the argument for drug testing law enforcement personnel is just as logical.

Law enforcement personnel take an oath to enforce and uphold the law whether they agree with the law or not. It not only makes sense that they adhere to the laws they have been entrusted to enforce, but is very important to those who are in their care. Civil unrest would become a major issue if law enforcement were not held to the same standard of the law that they enforce. First, the perception of law enforcement personnel would become distorted thus causing distrust. Law enforcement personnel represent a very small portion of the population and it would only take a few drug-related incidents to form a negative opinion, much like the Los Angeles Rampart Police Division. Also, the trust among law enforcement personnel who chose not to take drugs as opposed to those who did would be negatively affected. There is no positive outcome to total disregard of the law by those who must enforce it. In the case of law enforcement personnel, the lack of drug testing could result in civil unrest and distrust of authority by the civilian population, but the implications of an absence of drug testing by a private corporation would be of somewhat less consequence.

It is not uncommon for businesses to make decisions based upon money. In some cases, as with sports, that is the basis and foundation for most of their decisions. Image is a huge factor in the sports world. Although some sports figures do not want to be looked upon as role models, executives want them to be emulated by children and adults alike. The more consumers and fans adore a sports figure and the team they are associated with, the better the memorabilia sales, the more fans want to attend the games, and the generation of revenue is greater. Drug usage takes away from the appeal of the player and the team. If the image of the player and team is damaged the less likely consumers and fans will be to spend their money in support of the organization. The drug usage of a couple of individuals on a team could jeopardize his/her earnings, the earnings of the organization, and the reputation and earnings of the league (due to revenue sharing). In an occupation where image is everything, it is best to put forth the best image possible to induce others to aspire to imitate if only through purchases.

Many consider personal drug use a harmless crime and an invasion into that aspect of one’s life through drug testing considered unethical. From a deontological perspective, this may be true. It is difficult to condemn drug use and justify drug testing without considering the possible outcomes, results and consequences, all of which are not to be considered with deontological ethics. The justification of drug testing would be difficult because all do not consider drug usage morally wrong and one could not use the excuse that drug testing could prevent harmful acts that may or may not occur. However, utilitarian ethics does support the issue of drug testing for the benefit of the larger population. For safety issues, the logical conclusion that those who enforce the law should abide by it, and companies whose majority of business is derived from image, drug testing of employees and executives should be mandatory. In some situations, the safety of unknowing individuals, the masses’ perception of a group of individuals, and the life of a business override the desires of a few individuals.

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