Ethics and Excuses: The Crisis in Professional Responsibility

By Banks McDowell | Go to book overview

The analysis of professional ethics that says the problem is lack of knowledge of ethical duties, the assumption that individual professionals always have the option to act in accordance with those duties, and the definition of ethics as establishing borderhnes at the outer edges of acceptable conduct prevents us from dealing with the really difficult issues. Such ethical analyses appear theoretical and irrelevant to students and professionals who know or intuit that the most important moral issues they win meet are how to avoid or come to terms with systemic pressures, that is, develop defensible ways of adjusting personal and professional ideals with financial and competitive pressures to compromise.


NOTES
1.
Lon Fuller and William Perdue, "The Reliance Interest in Contract Damages," 46 YALE LAW JOURNAL ( 1936): p. 52.
2.
Several years ago, I published a paper, "The Lawyer as Manipulator: Is This a Model for Legal Education?," 31 WASHBURN LAW JOURNAL 506 ( 1992). It was rejected for publication by what I thought was the most appropriate journal, the JOURNAL OF LEGAL EDUCATION, and when presented as a talk often met a very hostile reaction, even among my faculty colleagues at Washburn University School of Law. Some audiences and readers have been receptive to the ideas there presented.
3.
Jacques Ellul, THE TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY ( New York: Vintage Books, 1964), p. 80.
4.
Jane Jacobs, SYSTEMS OF SURVIVAL: A DIALOGUE ON THE MORAL FOUNDATIONS OF COMMERCE AND POLITICS ( New York: Vintage Books, 1992), p. 197.
5.
The call for a two-tiered normative system may seem incongruous to those who feel that ethical principles must be universal and applied equally to all. Anatole France reminded us of the inequities of a rigidly universal set of norms when he quipped that the majestic equality of the law of France "forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
6.
Increasingly, medical doctors talk about the need to be advocates on behalf of patients with third-party payers, mostly insurers, to see that patients receive the treatment they need.
7.
Lloyd Paul Stryker, FOR THE DEFENSE: THOMAS ERSKINE, THE MOST ENLIGHTENED LIBERAL OF HIS TIMES, 1750-1823 ( Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1947), p. 86.
8.
In John Ralston Saul, THE UNCONSCIOUS CIVILIZATION ( Concord, Ont.: House of Anansi Press, 1995), the author argues persuasively that things like globalization are more ideological than real constraints, but, of course, what we believe is reality is as constraining as any natural constraint.
9.
See Robert Pear, "Clinton Advisers Outline Big Shift for Malpractice," NEW YORK TIMES ( Friday, May 21, 1993), p. Al, col. 6.
10.
One factor that minimizes the problems of controlling conduct is that the driver is the person most at risk for injury in the event of an accident caused by carelessness. Self-preservation would seem to be a stronger motivation for careful

-130-

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Ethics and Excuses: The Crisis in Professional Responsibility
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Introduction: The Ethical Crisis? 1
  • Notes 10
  • 2 - Responsibility and Excuses 13
  • Notes 23
  • 3 - Ethical Excuses 27
  • Notes 44
  • 4 - Law and Ethics: The Different Systems 47
  • Notes 61
  • 5 - Defenses: The Legal Excuses 63
  • Conclusion 79
  • 6 - The Fallibility of Human Beings 85
  • Notes 96
  • 7 - The Informal Moral Codes 97
  • 8 - The Need to Reformulate Ethical Expectations 111
  • Notes 130
  • 9 - The Professional and the Market--Is Efficiency the Predominant Value? 133
  • Notes 144
  • 10 - The Responsibility of Others Toward the Excuse Giver: The Need for Dialogue 147
  • Notes 157
  • 11 - Conclusion 159
  • Bibliography 163
  • Index 167
  • About the Author 171
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