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Making Ethical Decisions: Process

Read about how you need to make distinctions between competing choices and take consequences into account when making ethical decisions.

Ethical decision-making refers to the process of evaluating and choosing among alternatives in a manner consistent with ethical principles. In making ethical decisions, it is necessary to perceive and eliminate unethical options and select the best ethical alternative.

The process of making ethical decisions requires:

  • Commitment: The desire to do the right thing regardless of the cost
  • Consciousness: The awareness to act consistently and apply moral convictions to daily behavior
  • Competency: The ability to collect and evaluate information, develop alternatives, and foresee potential consequences and risks

Good decisions are both ethical and effective:

  • Ethical decisions generate and sustain trust; demonstrate respect, responsibility, fairness and caring; and are consistent with good citizenship. These behaviors provide a foundation for making better decisions by setting the ground rules for our behavior.
  • Effective decisions are effective if they accomplish what we want accomplished and if they advance our purposes. A choice that produces unintended and undesirable results is ineffective. The key to making effective decisions is to think about choices in terms of their ability to accomplish our most important goals. This means we have to understand the difference between immediate and short-term goals and longer-range goals.
Copyright 2002 Josephson Institute of Ethics