Ethics and Excuses: The Crisis in Professional Responsibility

By Banks McDowell | Go to book overview

6
The Fallibility of Human Beings

An additional excuse used by professionals who view themselves as decent people is that we are all fallible and that a certain level of ethical wrongdoing is unavoidable. This excuse will most often be raised against claims that the professional performed incompetently, exercised bad judgment, or overlooked something she should have foreseen, such as a doctor making a wrong diagnosis, a lawyer falsely predicting the outcome of a case, a financial advisor making an error in judging how the market will perform, and so on. Not only must there be an error in performance or judgment, but it must cause harm; otherwise, the client will not complain and there is no need for an excuse.

Such a situation often produces different evaluations from the perspective of the professional and that of the dissatisfied client. Although the professional will view the error as a good-faith mistake, the client will consider it as carelessness or incompetence. Can one resolve this disagreement inside the realm of ethics? One possible explanation why so many such disputes end up in court is the law does furnish a mechanism by which there can be a binding resolution.

The ideal resolution, as in most human conflicts, would be reached by mutual agreement. Frank discussion and compromise is not always possible, however, particularly in cases of substantial injury. There is a natural tendency for the professional, who may feel some degree of guilt, to avoid talking about the problem. Ideally, there should be a full discussion with the client about the reasons for the choices made and an attempt to meet the client's dissatisfaction. If the dispute or the differing perceptions remain,

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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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