An Ethical Decision-Making Model
(Source: Josephson Institute of Ethics. "Five Steps of Principled Reasoning."
- Determine precisely what must be decided.
- Formulate and devise the full range of alternatives.
- Eliminate patently impractical, illegal and improper alternatives.
- Force yourself to develop at least three ethically justifiable options.
- Examine each option to determine which ethical principles and values
- If any of the options requires the sacrifice of any ethical principle,
evaluate the facts and assumptions carefully.
- Distinguish solid facts from beliefs, desires, theories, suppositions,
unsupported conclusions, opinions, and rationalizations.
- Consider the credibility of sources, especially when they are self-interested,
ideological or biased.
- With regard to each alternative, carefully consider the benefits,
burdens and risks to each stakeholder.
- Make a judgment about what is not true and what consequences are most
likely to occur.
- Evaluate the viable alternatives according to personal conscience.
- Prioritize the values so that you can choose which values to advance
and which to subordinate.
- Determine who will be helped the most and harmed the least.
- Consider the worst case scenario.
- Consider whether ethically questionable conduct can be avoided by
changing goals or methods, or by getting consent.
- Apply three "ethics guides."
- Are you treating others as you would want to be treated?
- Would you be comfortable if your reasoning and decision were to
- Would you be comfortable if your children were observing you?
- Develop a plan of how to implement the decision.
- Maximize the benefits and minimize the costs and risks.
· Monitor and modify.
- Monitor the effects of decisions.
- Be prepared and willing to revise a plan, or take a different course
- Adjust to new information.