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 two “bads”?
  • Is the issue about more than what is legal or what is most efficient?

Get the Facts

  • Who will be impacted?
  • What are your obligations?
  • What are possible options and consequences (harm, perception etc.)?

Evaluate Alternate Actions

  • Consider your values, the university’s values, and evaluate options by asking the following questions:
    • Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm?
    • Which option best respects the rights of all who have a stake?
    • Which option treats people equally or proportionately?
    • Which option best serves the community as a whole?

Make a Decision and Test It

  • After deciding on the option that best addresses the situation, ask yourself:
    • If I told someone I respect – or told a television audience, what would they say?
    • Would I be comfortable with my decision printed in the newspapers for all to read?

Act and Reflect on the Outcome

  • How can my decision be implemented with the greatest care and attention to the concerns of all stakeholders?
  • Does this decision involve a choice between a good and bad alternative, or perhaps between two “goods” or two “bads”?
  • How did my decision turn out and what have I learned from it?

Valesquez, M., Moberg, D., Meyer, M, Shanks, T., McLean, M., DeCosse, D., Andre, C., and Hanson, K. (2009, May) A Framework for Thinking Ethically. Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/framework.html

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